Article

More evidence needed before ZBA approval

The Zoning Board of Appeals made some important decisions last month (April 17th) based on verbal assurances from the developers. ...The skyline of our city is at stake, the protection of neighbors from catastrophe and the potential of wind energy to be a key part of the future economy of our city. Both our architectural legacy and wind energy are among the most important assets that we own as a city and that we share with each other. They are, in a sense, like our commons. We should have proof, before we give them away, that they will be used to their best advantage.

The Zoning Board of Appeals made some important decisions last month (April 17th) based on verbal assurances from the developers.

Asking for a verbal assurance from the developer is like asking the stranger with his car door open if he's really going to take you home. It's smart to have proof before you sign on. With the ZBA this should take the form of a document from the appropriate authority.

The ZBA members felt they could skip this for a range of issues, from sewage up to 350-foot tall wind turbines in a busy part of the city.

The ZBA asked a developer if he was sure the city sewer line could handle a new subdivision. "Oh, yeah, Charlie Boulay told us it's fine." End of story.

The ZBA asked a developer if he could fit three cars in a slot that had no parking places drawn on the plan. Sure, no problem. It turns out you'd have to park them head to tail, but head-to-tail parking doesn't meet regulation. No mention of this. Approved!

This was only a warm-up for the major issue that night, two wind turbines at 350 feet tall.

A ZBA member asked the developer how quiet are they? The developer answered that he once went and stood under a wind... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The Zoning Board of Appeals made some important decisions last month (April 17th) based on verbal assurances from the developers.

Asking for a verbal assurance from the developer is like asking the stranger with his car door open if he's really going to take you home. It's smart to have proof before you sign on. With the ZBA this should take the form of a document from the appropriate authority.

The ZBA members felt they could skip this for a range of issues, from sewage up to 350-foot tall wind turbines in a busy part of the city.

The ZBA asked a developer if he was sure the city sewer line could handle a new subdivision. "Oh, yeah, Charlie Boulay told us it's fine." End of story.

The ZBA asked a developer if he could fit three cars in a slot that had no parking places drawn on the plan. Sure, no problem. It turns out you'd have to park them head to tail, but head-to-tail parking doesn't meet regulation. No mention of this. Approved!

This was only a warm-up for the major issue that night, two wind turbines at 350 feet tall.

A ZBA member asked the developer how quiet are they? The developer answered that he once went and stood under a wind turbine and it was about as noisy as an air conditioner. Okay! Then he was asked if he could get a wind study. He answered that there wasn't time for that; if this doesn't get approved tonight, the deal will be dead.

A ZBA member asked how safe are these wind turbines? The developer answered that he'd never heard of a problem. Approved!

Was there any determination of the wind conditions in that area and what's the appropriate siting, what's the appropriate turbine to match and what's the tested noise output? If it blows over in a hurricane, who's going to pay for the damage to the neighbors?

The ZBA Chairman announced at several points during the discussion that it was not the ZBA's jurisdiction. They have no ordinance for this.

The first ordinance in the book, Sec. 86-1, ends with the phrase: "to guide the orderly development of the city and to preserve and increase its amenities."

The skyline of our city is at stake, the protection of neighbors from catastrophe and the potential of wind energy to be a key part of the future economy of our city. Both our architectural legacy and wind energy are among the most important assets that we own as a city and that we share with each other. They are, in a sense, like our commons. We should have proof, before we give them away, that they will be used to their best advantage.

We haven't had an issue like this since Point Gloria, when it was presented to the ZBA as luxury condo living and then the developer substituted smaller windows, smaller rooms, discount construction and gave us Section 8 housing. We're left with a lie blocking a beautiful view of the bay, another valuable part of our commons.

We are now led to believe that the city's best interests will be served by developers deciding all the conditions for building wind turbines anywhere they want to. When is the city allowed to have a say in this? When we've got a skyline jammed with turbines, or perhaps a catastrophe?

Wind energy is exciting for Fall River; it could be a big part of our future. We need to make sure our city has oversight, and don't hand it over to the developers like that other energy menace.

LNG and wind energy are two different animals, but they have one gene in common. Both need a sound policy to govern their development.

LNG needs a state authority to survey the most appropriate sites, rule out the others and auction off the permits to the highest bidders.

Wind energy needs a city authority to survey the land and water, set guidelines for zoning by district, height vs. lot size, noise and technical specifications, and to decide how to cover catastrophe.

By the way, that survey is offered free of charge by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, the people who are bringing $250,000 to Fall River for a marine renewable energy center. Let's use their expertise.

Wind energy may have great potential but not enough to ruin our city by rushing into it. Before we go any further, let's get an ordinance adopted that adequately protects the interests of everyone in the city. Ask a City Councilor, today, to set the right course for the future.

 


Source: http://www.heraldnews.com/o...

MAY 9 2008
http://www.windaction.org/posts/14977-more-evidence-needed-before-zba-approval
back to top