GREENWOOD – Selectmen are expected to schedule a special town meeting to decide on proposed amendments to the town ordinance governing commercial wind farms.
The date of the meeting will likely be set at the board’s next meeting Tuesday, July 17.
On Monday, more than 100 people turned out for a public hearing on the issue. The gathering was dominated by comments in favor of the amendments, which would place much tighter restrictions on wind farms.
One new provision – the height restriction on turbine towers – would effectively ban such projects.
Calpine Corp., based in Houston, is studying the viability of a 13-turbine “Long Mountain Wind Farm” project in the area of Long, Tibbetts and Elwell mountains, near Twitchell Pond. Prompted by the potential development, Greenwood’s Ordinance Review Committee has proposed the updates to the ordinance.
The town’s existing ordinance limits the sound from routine operation of wind turbines to 55 decibels during the daytime and 42 at night at nonparticipating landowner property lines, the same as state guidelines.
Setbacks from property lines are a minimum of 150 percent of the height of the towers. There are no height limits.
A key part of the new proposal includes a recommendation limiting the daytime audible decibel level to 35 during the day and 25 at night.
The Ordinance Review Committee also recommended tower heights be limited to 250 feet (as measured from the tower base to the highest point of any turbine rotor blade, at the highest arc of the blade), and setbacks of 1 mile for every 100 feet of tower height.
Calpine has said its wind facility would likely include 600-foot towers, and the project would require towers that are at least 500 feet tall. In early June, the company hosted a public informational session on the project.
Monday’s town hearing, which lasted almost two hours, featured a page-by-page explanation of key parts of the proposed amendments by Planning Board Chairman Dennis Doyon, who is also a member of the Ordinance Review Committee.
The “complaints” section of the ordinance proposal prompted one of the evening’s longer discussions.
An abutter to the property where Calpine would like to do a project expressed concern about how complaints, particularly noise ones, would be resolved.
Doyon said if a wind company exceeded the ordinance restrictions, it would become an enforcement issue for the town to pursue.
Jessie Frederickson of the Ordinance Review Committee also noted that complaints recorded with Greenwood would be posted online.
Property owner Jake Zagata generally applauded the committee’s work, saying it had given the town the tools to deal with the wind power situation.
“This is an opportunity to get some control in this uncharted area,” he said.
Concerning the financial impact of a project on the town, Calpine earlier this year presented figures on the net property tax revenue Greenwood would gain from a wind farm.
The company also outlined a proposal for a community benefits agreement, under which Greenwood and local organizations would receive money annually from the wind company.
Marie Bartlett, who served many years as a Greenwood selectman, cautioned Monday that the increased town valuation due to a wind farm would result in the loss of state revenue sharing funds and state aid to schools.
She also said the company’s figures do not take into account potential loss of individual property values due to the presence of a wind farm.
“Do you really think that tourists are going to come up especially to look at wind mills?” she asked.
Resident Norm Milliard spoke in support of the amendments. He likened the situation to one 20 years ago, when the town voted to regulate jet skis on its lakes.
“You, the voters chose what you wanted the town of Greenwood to be like as we move toward the future,” he said. “Twenty years later, 2018, the town of Greenwood is at another crossroad,” with an opportunity to choose what it will look like for the next 20 years.
The town’s mountains, he said, are as valuable to Greenwood’s identity as its ponds were in 1998.
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