September 20, 2015
Rhode Island

Council drafts ordinance to regulate future turbines

By Anita E. Baffoni | Kent County Daily Times | September 18, 2015 |

COVENTRY— A wind turbine ordinance has been drafted by the Coventry Town Council and legal counsel that will regulate future turbine endeavors, which the town did not previously have.

In light of 10 turbines planned to be installed in Western Coventry, Councilwoman Karen Carlson – who represents residents in that area of town – has many concerns regarding regulation of wind turbines in the town’s future.

It came as quite a surprise to members on the council when the 10 turbines were contracted because the first two turbines on Picillo Farm were the only ones to be brought to the council’s attention. The additional eight were approved by the Zoning Board, which is permitted according to town council members.

Councilman Greg Laboissonniere said that there was no communication between zoning and the council and the moratorium would prevent any more turbines from “popping up.” The moratorium will not affect WED’s construction of the 10 contracted turbines but will restrict future projects in Coventry which WED is interested in.

Attorney Bill Bernstein is replacing Town Solicitor Nick Gorham on the issue as he recused himself on this issue for a possible conflict of interest. Bernstein, at Monday’s town council meeting, went over the proposed ordinance which he drafted based on other turbine ordinances established throughout the country, most specifically New England.

Representation of Wind Energy Development (WED), who is heading the Coventry turbine projects, was at the meeting to go over their oppositions to Carlson’s proposed changes to the drafted ordinance.

A moratorium is in place until January that prohibits any more wind turbine developments to come into Coventry and council members said an ordinance needs to be put in place.

“I don’t want to take a wait-and-see attitude. We need to be proactive and not reactive —which is how this town operated for too long,” Councilwoman Tammy Duxbury said.

The time it has taken the turbines to be installed is troublesome to some council members as, “it’s been three and a half years and nothing is going on,” Carlson said.

A resident, Skip Mays, echoed many of Carlson’s concerns with the language during public comment. Some concerns included language in the ordinance surrounding required permits, professional services, fall zones, noise level and abandonment of the facility. Some residents suggested keeping the ordinance as “tight as possible” then expand the scope of restrictions when the turbines are operating, if needed.

The Chief Operating Officer of WED, Michelle Carpenter addressed the council, explaining that certain language in the drafted ordinance could hinder future developments in Coventry.

“The request we are making is to not change the ordinance but to hold the moratorium and continue to let us continue to operate,” Carpenter said. “What’s the rush? With the moratorium there, our thought is to take time to think about how it should be drafted.”

WED is suggesting the turbines be in full operation before the turbine ordinance be put into effect; that way, specific issues that come up can be worked into the language, such as sound regulations or fall zone mandates.

“This is not directed at WED but for all wind turbine farms. There is no ordinance and these are guidelines, which are not perfect, but we have to start someplace,” Carlson countered.

The turbines have not yet been installed. Plans are in place to begin installation in early spring, according to WED.

One resident spoke about his opinion in keeping Western Coventry rural and how the turbines may affect property values of homes in that area.

Diane Capwell, who owns the property where two turbines are being installed, addressed the council. In reference to the resident who said they want to keep Greene rural, Capwell explained that the turbines are going up in the middle of the woods with no residences around.

“What is the problem with a turbine in the sky turning very slowly? It is nothing more than watching a fish in a fish tank which is very soothing and comforting,” Capwell said passionately. “Drive to Connecticut and you will see housing developments in the beautiful farm fields because those people can’t carry the burden of paying taxes. Nothing can be better than having turbines to help those people.”

Capwell said that very little sound comes from the turbines and more noise is caused from traffic along her road, on Route 117.

West Warwick recently had an all-day referendum that approved the purchase of three out of the 10 wind turbines being installed in Coventry. It is reported that West Warwick would save an estimated $44 million in power costs from the energy produced from the turbines.

Laboissonniere said that Coventry will only benefit in savings on energy costs for the first two turbines.

No vote was taken at the council meeting as it was tabled to further consult with Bernstein. Carlson said she wants the ordinance completed as soon as possible.

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