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New wind blowing: Scarborough tackles turbines, halts installation

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New wind blowing: Scarborough tackles turbines, halts installation

SCARBOROUGH — A resident rushed to install a wind turbine this week even as his neighbors moved quickly to prevent it, all before the town could pass rules to govern the small wind-energy systems.

Scott Doherty, of 12 Ferry Road, said he was shocked on Wednesday when the town told him to hold off on the installation of a wind turbine in the back yard of his half-acre lot. When the stop-work order was issued, the contractor had already poured the concrete base and completed electrical wiring for the 35- to 40-foot turbine with 12-foot blades.

"I can't believe it – everybody's talking about alternative energy; we've got to do it," Doherty said. "This country needs to do these kinds of things. The town of Scarborough is against alternative energy."

Doherty admitted he knew there was no ordinance in place when he made the decision to have the turbine installed. At that time, he was aware the town was considering adopting an ordinance similar to Cape Elizabeth's. According to Doherty, his turbine, rated at 45 decibels, would meet or exceed the standards in Cape's code and the language in the ordinance Scarborough is considering.

"But if there's not a code to enforce, how can they tell me to stop?," he said.

When he discussed it with Southwest Windpower's southern Maine dealer, Mike Manning of MGM Builders, Doherty said he learned that other towns without ordinances, including Windham and Gorham, are allowing residents to install wind turbines.

"I thought I could just put it up," Doherty said.

Town Planner Dan Bacon said as long as Doherty has stopped working on the turbine, he will not be required to remove what's already been completed.

"The applicant needs to wait until there are standards from the town and then can apply for a permit," Bacon said.

The system Doherty purchased from Manning cost him $17,000, including installation. The federal government offers a 30 percent rebate of the installed cost with no cap, or $5,100 in Doherty's case, Manning said. In the past year, Manning's installation rate has averaged about one per week.

"Scarborough has some good wind, especially along the ocean," Manning said. "There is an eight- to 10-year payback; right on the ocean it's a little less time."

But not everyone is pleased with Doherty's actions or the terms of the town's proposed ordinance.

During Wednesday's Town Council public hearing on the proposal, Jim Plagenhoef of 4 Cottage Lane said the town must be "selective" about where it allows the installation of wind turbines. Plagenhoef said he was "torn" by his friendship with Doherty, who is his neighbor, and by his support of wnd energy, but he asked the town to consider the impact a wind turbine would have on neighbors in a densely populated area.

"(Many of the neighbors) have contacted us and are very concerned about the close proximity where Scott (Doherty) wants to put his up," Plagenhoef said.

Concerned about how turbines might affect other people and their property values, he urged councilors to employ different criteria for different parts of town.

Another of Doherty's neighbors, William Roman of 18 Ferry Road, was represented at the public hearing by attorney Rick Shinay. Shinay echoed Plagenhoef's apprehensions about density and property values and added concerns about noise and requiring adequate setback to prevent property damage if the structure topples over.

"From a personal perspective, I commend the town ...," Shinay said. "(But) I submit allowing them in densely populated areas is not the thing to do."

Harry White, of Running Hill Road, on the other hand, said he would like more latitude. He asked councilors to consider many modifications to the language, including the right of large property owners to erect more than one turbine.

After the hearing, councilors sent the ordinance back to the Ordinance Committee for further consideration and possible modifications, and postponed a second council reading to their first meeting in June.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.