BUCKLAND – After hearing from residents this week, the Planning Board will take another look at its proposed small-scale wind turbine bylaw before bringing it to a vote at a special town meeting in late August.
The proposal defines a “small wind energy facility” as a turbine that is 120 feet tall or less and produces up to 250 kilowatts of electricity. Small wind-energy systems will require a special permit from the Planning Board and a site plan review in areas zoned rural residential, commercial, industrial or “historic industrial.” They are not allowed in the Shelburne Falls/village-commercial or village-residential zoned sections of town.
Large-scale wind turbine projects are prohibited from being built in any part of town.
Comments from residents ranged from concerns that a 250kW wind turbine was bigger than is needed for a home or small business use, to fears that the bylaw is so restrictive that it will discourage any wind turbine development altogether.
“Are we setting up a barrier here that is going to make small wind impossible?” asked resident Harvey Schaktmann. He said he thought the setback requirement, that the wind turbine be sited at least one-half mile from any abuttors’ homes, would be a difficult requirement to meet. He also wondered if the size restrictions eliminated commercially available turbines.
Chairman John Gould and Planner Michael Hoberman said there are turbines on the market that would meet the town’s size requirements and capabilities.
“We’re walking a fine line,” said Hoberman. “The stipulations that you define as restrictive are a result of this process and input of citizens. If you make this (bylaw) too loose, then the bylaw loses the support of the town.”
Gould said the Planning Board could waive a restriction, when doing so has negligible effect. He said it’s better for the law to be strict and have the board grant waivers or variances on a case-by-case basis.
“I feel very safe with a half-mile setback for 250 kilowatts – as a ‘little guy’ who doesn’t want a lot of wind next to me,” said Ben Murray, who owns the Red Gate Farm learning center. Murray asked if the financial surety, to insure that any abandoned turbines get taken down, could account for inflationary construction costs over the 20 or so years of the turbine’s life span.
The Planning Board will meet Aug. 5 at 6 p.m., to discuss residents’ suggestions and possibly revise the draft. Selectmen are planning to hold a special town meeting at the end of August, although a date hasn’t yet been set.
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