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Plymouth can’t be so strict with wind towers: Town has to let them be built on private land, too

PLYMOUTH - It’s OK for the town to establish where wind towers can be built, but the town can’t limit them to municipal properties, Attorney General Thomas Reilly said.

Last spring, town meeting passed a bylaw allowing power-generating wind towers on town-owned parcels of at least 5 acres.

However, according to the town’s planning director, Lee Hartmann, Reilly rejected the section of the bylaw limiting locations, ruling that zoning bylaws must apply uniformly to all classes of property.

‘‘What we have now is a zoning bylaw that applies nowhere,’’ Hartmann said after Reilly’s ruling last week. ‘‘I’m not surprised by the action. I thought it would be a problem from the start.’’

The town’s energy committee petitioned town meeting to pass a zoning law for wind towers, but planning board members were reluctant to support a zone that would allow commercial development of wind turbines throughout town.

Hartmann said planning board and energy committee members agreed to the two restrictions - town-owned property and 5 acres or more - so the proposed bylaw could be brought to town meeting for a vote.

Wind turbines can be built under an existing bylaw by special permit and with a variance to exceed the town’s height limit.

The new bylaw still requires a special permit, but not a variance, thus streamlining the permitting process.

Energy committee Chairman... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
Last spring, town meeting passed a bylaw allowing power-generating wind towers on town-owned parcels of at least 5 acres.

However, according to the town’s planning director, Lee Hartmann, Reilly rejected the section of the bylaw limiting locations, ruling that zoning bylaws must apply uniformly to all classes of property.

‘‘What we have now is a zoning bylaw that applies nowhere,’’ Hartmann said after Reilly’s ruling last week. ‘‘I’m not surprised by the action. I thought it would be a problem from the start.’’

The town’s energy committee petitioned town meeting to pass a zoning law for wind towers, but planning board members were reluctant to support a zone that would allow commercial development of wind turbines throughout town.

Hartmann said planning board and energy committee members agreed to the two restrictions - town-owned property and 5 acres or more - so the proposed bylaw could be brought to town meeting for a vote.

Wind turbines can be built under an existing bylaw by special permit and with a variance to exceed the town’s height limit.

The new bylaw still requires a special permit, but not a variance, thus streamlining the permitting process.

Energy committee Chairman James Sweeney would like to get the bylaw rewritten and submitted to town meeting this spring, but fears there may not be enough time.

‘‘I’ll try and broaden it to include private landowners, even though the planning board didn’t support that originally,’’ Sweeney said. ‘‘There are enough controls in the special permit process to make sure these towers don’t just spring up everywhere.’’

Planning board Chairman Nicholas Filla, who supports wind power, said his board may be able to tweak the existing bylaw to allow for higher structures. He also would like to get something together for town meeting this spring.

Sweeney is a principal in Community Wind Power, a company that is trying to get four wind turbines built on town-owned property in Camelot Park near the wastewater treatment plant.

A wind test tower was put up and taken down almost immediately when the manufacturer offered a better design, Sweeney said. The new test tower is on site and should go up in a week or two, depending on the weather.

Sweeney and his partner, Brian Braginton-Smith, say Plymouth has enough wind to power a dozen wind turbines and could be a leader in the development of sustainable energy.

But the industry faces financial and aesthetic hurdles.

The company’s plans to erect a wind turbine at Plymouth South High School was put on hold because of objections from Pinehills residents.

‘‘How can we invest in test towers when we think there will be opposition to the wind turbines?’’ Sweeney said. ‘‘Our goal is to educate the public and hopefully get them to support wind energy.

We’re going to try and do that for the Camelot Park turbines, but we’ll pull the article if there is too much opposition.’’

Sweeney said the company would eventually seek permits for the Plymouth South High School site.

The company would split profits with the town from projects on town property, Sweeney said.

‘‘We’d go out and get the financing,’’ he said. ‘‘Once that is paid, we’d split the profits 50-50 with the town.’’

The energy committee is also considering 1,000 acres of town-owned property in South Plymouth for a 100-megawatt wind energy facility.

The land has been previously considered for an industrial park, but title problems have slowed progress.

Source: http://ledger.southofboston...

FEB 1 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/1139-plymouth-can-t-be-so-strict-with-wind-towers-town-has-to-let-them-be-built-on-private-land-too
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