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Small wind energy ordinance will likely return to planning board

A proposed small wind energy ordinance may be headed back to the Windham Planning Board for additional review and another public hearing. ...The proposed draft required that all new windmills would have to be a distance of 1.1 times the height of the structure from the nearest lot line, with a maximum height of 60 feet. However, the draft contained provisions to allow waivers for taller structures that generated more than 20 kW of power if the builder went before the planning board.

A proposed small wind energy ordinance may be headed back to the Windham Planning Board for additional review and another public hearing, despite some councilors' push to have town staff make the changes and bypass the second planning board review.

During last week's workshop, Assistant Planner Ben Smith presented the planning board's draft ordinance to the council, including a definition of small wind energy as turbines with 1 kW to 20 kW output primarily for on-site consumption. The proposed draft required that all new windmills would have to be a distance of 1.1 times the height of the structure from the nearest lot line, with a maximum height of 60 feet. However, the draft contained provisions to allow waivers for taller structures that generated more than 20 kW of power if the builder went before the planning board.

''Why bother the planning board when you have plenty of buffer?'' asked Councilor Peter Busque during the meeting. ''It costs (builders/developers) a few thousand dollars to go before the planning board.''

The council suggested that instead of requiring larger turbines to go before the planning board, that all new windmills, up to 120 feet in height and up to 100 kW... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

A proposed small wind energy ordinance may be headed back to the Windham Planning Board for additional review and another public hearing, despite some councilors' push to have town staff make the changes and bypass the second planning board review.

During last week's workshop, Assistant Planner Ben Smith presented the planning board's draft ordinance to the council, including a definition of small wind energy as turbines with 1 kW to 20 kW output primarily for on-site consumption. The proposed draft required that all new windmills would have to be a distance of 1.1 times the height of the structure from the nearest lot line, with a maximum height of 60 feet. However, the draft contained provisions to allow waivers for taller structures that generated more than 20 kW of power if the builder went before the planning board.

''Why bother the planning board when you have plenty of buffer?'' asked Councilor Peter Busque during the meeting. ''It costs (builders/developers) a few thousand dollars to go before the planning board.''

The council suggested that instead of requiring larger turbines to go before the planning board, that all new windmills, up to 120 feet in height and up to 100 kW output, be approved by the code enforcement office. Council Chairman Bill Tracy then asked Smith to make the requested changes and bring an updated draft back to the council on Feb. 2 so the council could hold a public hearing on Feb. 9.

''This has been held up long enough,'' Tracy said.

However, Planning Board Chairman David Nadeau questioned this process.
''No matter what council is in place, the state procedure for an ordinance is it has to go to the planning board for a public hearing. They can't just change an ordinance like that, such a significant change -- it's got to go back to the planning board,'' Nadeau said.

Smith said that he consulted the town attorney to determine the legality of making changes to the ordinance without going back through the planning board and holding another public hearing, and said that he was told to send it back to the planning board.

''The council had asked why (it needed to go back to the planning board). It was the attorney's opinion that the suggested changes are substantive,'' Smith said.

If the draft gets sent back to the planning board, the council's suggestions will be reviewed, a public hearing will be held, and then the planning board will vote whether or not to accept the proposed changes. However, even if the planning board votes against the changes, the council can still approve the ordinance with the standards discussed last week.

But Nadeau cautions against moving too quickly on this ordinance.

''There's an awful lot to look at with this,'' he said, explaining that most draft ordinances come from the turbine manufacturers, and often leave out important details, such as noise issues.

Recently, the Portland Press Herald reported on wind turbines having unforeseen negative effects on the residents of Vinalhaven, where a new wind farm has been installed. Residents as far away as 3,000 feet from the 388-foot turbines were quoted as saying the noise was as loud as a jet plane landing nearby and was preventing them from sleeping. State requirements for wind farms state that the noise level must be 45 dBA at the lot lines. Windham's draft small wind ordinance states that the noise level must be lower than 55 dBA in shoreland and residential zones, and 60 dBA in commercial and farm zones.

One of the concerns expressed by the residents of Vinalhaven was that the noise is of a low frequency, which is not as easily measured as higher frequency sound.

''That's a different animal all together,'' said Councilor John MacKinnon, who was part of the initial small wind energy ordinance drafting committee.

He explained that the larger windmills, similar to the ones on Vinalhaven, have larger rotors and machinery, which contribute greatly to the noise issue. The proposed windmills in Windham would be significantly smaller, with limits of 100 kW. The turbines in Vinalhaven generate 1,500 kW of electricity.

''Once (new windmill construction) starts hitting the public, then you get the feedback,'' said Nadeau.

When asked if the planning board needed more time for research, Nadeau suggested that delaying the process would not be well received by the council.
''What difference would it make to have more research? I don't see us changing any minds. They're already clear what they're doing,'' he said.

MacKinnon explained that there had already been several building applications for windmills and that he would like to see the ordinance go through the approval process sooner rather than later so those who want to utilize wind energy can.

''My philosophy is that we need to accept there will be some visual impacts. That's the price we need to pay for energy independence,'' said MacKinnon.

Nadeau said that in the future, he or a member of the planning board should present draft ordinances to the council during workshops instead of having town staff bear that responsibility.

''Why should the staff take the heat when the council disagrees with the planning board?'' he asked, rhetorically. Nadeau said he would like to see changes made to existing ordinances to protect those who have already built in Windham.

''We're not looking out for who's already here. I think that's wrong,'' he said.


Source: http://www.independentpub.c...

JAN 29 2010
https://www.windaction.org/posts/24358-small-wind-energy-ordinance-will-likely-return-to-planning-board
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