WEST WARWICK — The town council passed a 6-month moratorium on wind energy projects this week, putting a temporary halt on related development until December 31, 2017. West Warwick Town Council Vice President John D’Amico proposed made the proposal, citing that it would be beneficial to implement until the town finishes revisions for its wind energy ordinance and updates to the Comprehensive Plan.
D’Amico said he has been working with zoning board solicitor Albert DiFiore to rewrite the zoning code on wind energy systems, but more time is needed to get it right.
“In my opinion, with a lot of work still to be done, it doesn’t make sense to accept applications,” D’Amico said. “We’re moving in the right direction, but under the current ordinance it’s not in the interest of the town to be doing this, so I’m asking for a 6-month moratorium. We want to be able to take our time and do it right.”
DiFiore has been collecting information and conducting research as to what other towns have included in their own ordinances. West Warwick currently owns three turbines in Coventry constructed by Wind Energy Development, LLC, that are powering its municipal buildings. Council members agreed the situation was a good fit for the town because the turbines are not located in West Warwick, and said they want to be cautious going forward.
Coventry implemented a 6-month moratorium on wind turbines in 2015, and is currently still in the midst of a similar moratorium for solar projects. Moratoriums on wind projects have become common across the country as cities and towns struggle to update their ordinances and Comprehensive Plan’s fast enough to keep up with new technologies.
D’Amico has noted previously that he does not feel the current ordinance and details in the Comprehensive plan provide enough information and guidelines for the town’s planning commission and zoning board to make decisions on whether certain locations are appropriate height, fall zones, set-backs, noise, shadow flicker, signal interference and environmental impact. Therefore, the council ordered that the ordinance be updated according to the Rhode Island Land-Based Wind Siting Guidelines developed in January of this year.
“Six months isn’t a long time,” said council president David Gosselin Jr., noting that there are already many applications for different projects before the zoning board. “They can’t even get on the agenda until June.”
Solicitor Timothy Williamson explained that there is only one wind energy project in the works at the moment, but applicant is appealing a zoning board decision in Superior Court. According to town manager Fred Presley, the moratorium would not impact that project.
“This doesn’t prevent a developer from a future project from doing their due diligence,” Williamson said.