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Wind power changes direction

But this week, neighbors finally had a chance to weigh in on wind power at a meeting of the council’s Planning and Development Committee that was scheduled specifically to take a second look at the Wind Energy Conversion ordinance. Ward 2 City Councilor Greg Earls requested that the committee review regulations in the year-old law. Specifically, councilors are looking at dimensions, siting, density and required notification to neighbors.

Newburyport - They never saw it coming. That's one of the biggest complaints of residents in the Back Bay neighborhood about Mark Richey's wind turbine.

Residents were not notified when the City Council was holding hearings on the city's wind turbine ordinance, and they didn't receive any letters from the Zoning Board of Appeals last summer, when that board was considering a special permit for Richey to erect a 292-foot turbine next to his woodworking factory in the industrial park.

But this week, neighbors finally had a chance to weigh in on wind power at a meeting of the councils Planning and Development Committee that was scheduled specifically to take a second look at the Wind Energy Conversion ordinance.

Ward 2 City Councilor Greg Earls requested that the committee review regulations in the year-old law. Specifically, councilors are looking at dimensions, siting, density and required notification to neighbors.

Councilor Ed Cameron, who heads up the committee, and councilors Kathleen O'Connor Ives and Barry Connell, plan to hold several meetings to gather more information on wind turbines, in the hope of determining whether or not the current ordinance needs some... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Newburyport - They never saw it coming. That's one of the biggest complaints of residents in the Back Bay neighborhood about Mark Richey's wind turbine.

Residents were not notified when the City Council was holding hearings on the city's wind turbine ordinance, and they didn't receive any letters from the Zoning Board of Appeals last summer, when that board was considering a special permit for Richey to erect a 292-foot turbine next to his woodworking factory in the industrial park.

But this week, neighbors finally had a chance to weigh in on wind power at a meeting of the council’s Planning and Development Committee that was scheduled specifically to take a second look at the Wind Energy Conversion ordinance.

Ward 2 City Councilor Greg Earls requested that the committee review regulations in the year-old law. Specifically, councilors are looking at dimensions, siting, density and required notification to neighbors.

Councilor Ed Cameron, who heads up the committee, and councilors Kathleen O'Connor Ives and Barry Connell, plan to hold several meetings to gather more information on wind turbines, in the hope of determining whether or not the current ordinance needs some changes.

This time around, there was plenty of notice, and scores of people showed up for the meeting in the auditorium at City Hall Tuesday night including a nearly full contingent of city councilors. But instead of bringing their concerns about potential problems with the turbine, residents brought hindsight.

Nearly three dozen people offered their ideas, opinions and accounts of their experiences living near Richey’s turbine.

Several people, including a couple of members from the mayor's Energy Advisory Committee, made the case for wind power as a key part of efforts by Newburyport and the nation to find alternative sources of energy.

Business owner Cindy Johnson, who lives on Lime Street, was among those who asked the board not recommend any changes to the ordinance that might create roadblocks for future wind turbine projects because alternative energy is as important as anything in the country now.

The city's Planning Department has already proposed 22 potential locations in the industrial park for wind turbines.

But residents who came to the meeting to ask for changes to the ordinance were equally passionate about green initiatives, and many prefaced their remarks with comments like,"

I believe in wind energy, but ….”..."

After those buts came descriptions of the problems people have experienced and how its changed the neighborhood.

Hill Street resident Jason LaCroix said he has 'turbine shadow' on his wall and complained that he had to uninstall a glass door from the second floor of his home to his deck because of it.

"Please don't put future people through this," he said. "If someone wanted to build a 30-story building, it wouldn't even be entertained."

His mother Judy LaCroix said that the issue has torn the close-knit neighborhood apart.

" My home is closest to the turbine," she said. “"I voted in favor of it with reservations and for the first time ever, I had to ask someone to leave my yard. It has separated this neighborhood emotionally."

She recommended that the ordinance address eye level since the blades of the turbine are at eye level with her home.

Increase setbacks

Most of the neighbors asked for one major change in the ordinance - a significant increase in setbacks.

The current rules require turbines to be at least 300 feet from any residential zone. Many who spoke at the meeting suggested a setback of a half-mile.

Fran Larkin moved to Newburyport last year and bought a house in the Back Bay neighborhood before there was any talk about a turbine. He suggested 5,000 feet as a possible buffer zone.

But Niall Robinson, who serves on the Energy Advisory Committee, asked the councilors to be cautious about setbacks. Robinson suggested a half-mile may be unrealistic and could potentially rule out most locations in the city.

Still, Back Bay residents who are experiencing problems with noise and flicker - a strobe-like sun and shadow effect that hits some homes during different parts of the day at different times of the year - say appropriate setbacks would solve those problems.

Sheila Twomey, who came to the meeting with her husband and two kids, said living with flicker is like living on an airport landing strip. Other residents described how the red light on the turbine that flashes in the evening to warn off anything flying low in the sky also lights up different rooms in their homes and reflects and flashes off of anything made of glass.

Residents suggested that increasing setbacks would also spare other city residents a possible decrease in home values, which is something Back Bay families whose homes appear to be face-to-face with the head of the turbine, eventually may have to encounter.

In addition to describing their personal experiences, residents also urged the council to make changes in the permit process. They asked that residents in any home that could be impacted by a wind turbine be notified of any new proposals and any hearings or meetings.

ZBA chairman Ed Ramsdell and suggested that the Richey proposal had received plenty of scrutiny. He also said the city’s ordinance is "well-crafted and crisp" and that a lot of work went into writing it.

"I hope rigor will also apply to any changes to it,"” he added.

Charles Carroll, also of Hill Street, said that the law is well-crafted because it was crafted by smart lawyers.

"Every time somebody tries to sell technology to the city, the city gets screwed, every time,”" he said, eliciting laughter from the crowd. “"The city doesn't do due diligence.”"

Residents asked the councilors to consider requiring anyone with a turbine application to foot the bill for an independent consultant hired by the city.

Some came to the meeting with photographs and posters. Patty Spalding handed the councilors an enormous loose-leaf binder filled with information on turbines. And there were lots of invitations to the three councilors to visit some of the homes that have been most heavily affected by the turbine.

Although the meeting was geared toward possible changes in the ordinance, there were emotional moments for residents who say they were let down by the city, and some who now feel trapped by a situation they know isn't going to change.

Back Bay resident Michelle Stanton told the councilors that it was wrong and unfair to allow one business to benefit from something that not only doesn’t help the city, but also hurts people who have been in the neighborhood for years.

Stanton said the problems from the turbine have significantly disrupted her life and the lives of her neighbors.

"Our lives will never be the same," she said.


Source: http://www.wickedlocal.com/...

APR 4 2009
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