LYMAN NEW HAMPSHIRE - The Lyman Zoning Board of Adjustment heard strong opposition to a proposed wind anemometer tower from a majority of residents during a public hearing Wednesday night.
The board called the hearing to accept comments on a request for a zoning variance filed by UPC Wind Partners, LLC of Newton, Mass.
The Massachusetts developer hopes to erect a wind measuring device on a 160-foot tower in order to monitor prevailing winds during an 18-month period. Timothy Caffyn, project manager for UPC Wind Partners, said his company first wishes to evaluate the potential for a wind farm on a site along a two-mile stretch of ridge line on Gardner Mountain in Lyman. If the wind anemometer results are promising, then the company would consider erecting a number of wind turbines on property owned by Jack Merrill.
Merrill, who lives in Maine, attended the hearing but did not address the board.
A variance from the board is required before the wind gauge can be erected. Lyman zoning regulations limit the height of structures to 35 feet. Another issue raised by the board chairman during a previous application in July was the issue of whether the wind gauge constitutes an industrial use in a residential zone.
UPC Wind Partners, LLC applied for a variance to erect an anemometer in July. By a 4-1 vote, the board rejected the variance application. UPC withdrew the application before the board's decision became final. Wednesday night's hearing was to discuss the company's new application for a variance with the application based on slightly different grounds. The plan itself was unchanged from the first proposal.
About 65 people attended. Of those who chose to address the board, the majority of comments were in opposition to the granting of a variance. Board Chairman Steve Moscieki told those attending they should strictly limit their comments to the application for a permit to construct a temporary wind gauge. Speakers and audience members joked about "the thing we are not allowed to mention," which was the anemometer, could be followed by a commercial wind generating site.
UPC Wind Partners, LLC was also represented by attorney John Turcotte, who reiterated positions included in the application for a variance filed with the town. Turcotte essentially argued the variance would simply permit an "area variance" that would allow the 160-foot wind measuring device to be erected even though the zoning bylaws limit the height of any structure to 35 feet. Turcotte went through a five-part test a variance request must pass, arguing the application met each of the five requirements necessary for a variance.
But Lisa Linowes, an opponent, presented a letter addressed to the board from John Rastigan, an attorney who argued the board could not grant the variance because the application failed to satisfy several of the requirements. The five conditions a variance request must meet are that: the variance will not be contrary to the public interest; special conditions exist, such that literal enforcement of the ordinance results in unnecessary hardship; the variance requested is consistent with the spirit of the ordinance; substantial justice would be done by granting the variance; and the granting of the variance will not diminish the value of surrounding properties.
Lyndia Melchin presented a letter from Richard Reinhold, a Littleton real estate agent, who stated commercial wind turbines constituted "visual pollution" and would have a damaging effect on surrounding property values.
Later, another letter from real estate agent Andrew Smith of Franconia was presented to the board. Smith said the test tower would have "a dramatic negative impact" on real estate values and would create fear and uncertainty among potential buyers and would result in "buyers looking elsewhere."
One attendee, Gail Welch, purchased property in Lyman in August. She told the board she only signed the papers because an earlier decision by the Lyman Zoning Board denied UPC a variance and she believed that meant the issue had been decided. She said she probably would not have bought the property had she realized the issue would resurface.
Brian Santy, a farmer whose land is at the base of Gardner Mountain, presented the board with a petition signed by 160 residents opposing the variance request.
Steve Hight of Littleton described his personal experience with a 140-foot wind measurement tower on his property in Littleton. He told the group five towers were installed on properties in New Hampshire as part of a grant designed to test New Hampshire's suitability for commercial wind farm development. He said the tower was on his property for 18 months and during the time it was in place, he received no negative comments on the tower. He said no one in the area even noticed the tower.
Ray Cloutier, chairman of the town planning board, told the board the town's 1988 master plan encouraged gathering information and studying a topic carefully before planning the future of the town. He commented he had heard fears expressed by people in the audience and that more information and study was needed on the issue.
One Lyman resident asked Timothy Caffyn if UPC would be willing to commit themselves to accepting the majority opinion of the residents of Lyman and withdraw a plan to build wind towers if it was not supported by a majority of the voters. Caffyn replied "absolutely, yes" to the question, explaining UPC would just go somewhere else if Lyman residents opposed a wind farm.
After about two hours of comments from residents, the board voted to continue the public hearing Nov. 4 at 6 p.m. Once the board decides to close the public hearing, it will begin deliberations on the variance application.
On Monday, the Lyman Board of Selectmen ruled the UPC application would not need a use variance - as opposed to the area variance pertaining to height, which zoners considered - because the tower would be temporary and it would not be considered an industrial use in a residential zone. Residents have a right to appeal the selectmen's ruling to the zoning board of adjustment and several people at last night's meeting indicated they will do so.