Scarborough wind turbine ordinance returns to council

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SCARBOROUGH — Proposed regulations for small wind energy systems, which first came before councilors the same week a resident was prevented from installing a wind turbine in his yard, are returning to the Town Council next week with some modifications from the Ordinance Committee.

In early May, the town issued Scott Doherty a
stop-work order to prevent a contractor from erecting a $17,000, 35- to
40-foot turbine with 12-foot blades in the back yard of the half-acre
lot at 12 Ferry Road. The order came after the electrical wiring and concrete base had
already been completed.

Town Planner Dan Bacon told Doherty he would have to wait until an ordinance was in place, when he could apply for a permit.

During a May 6 public hearing on the proposed ordinance, Doherty’s
neighbor, Jim Plagenhoef of 4 Cottage Lane asked the council to consider the impact a wind turbine would have in neighborhoods like his with small, tightly packed lots. He told councilors that many of his neighbors
were concerned about Doherty’s plan.

One of those neighbors is William Roman, of 18 Ferry Road, who was represented at the hearing by his attorney, Rick Shinay.

Shinay argued during the hearing and in a letter
he sent to the town that wind turbines do not
belong in densely populated areas, where they could devalue property,
increase noise to an unacceptable level and cause damage to adjoining properties if they fall.

“I suggested that one solution was to limit them to non-residential areas,” Shinay said Wednesday. “I went on to suggest if that’s unacceptable, increased setbacks or minimum lot size requirements would go a long way to limiting these types of facilities in densely developed areas.”

While several changes have been made to the ordinance since the May hearing, Shinay said many of those changes are “more liberal” than the original document, easing restrictions on lot size, placement and height.

The modified ordinance councilors will consider next week increases the allowable height from 100 feet to 175 feet, though it would now be measured to the tip of the blade rather than to the center of the turbine’s spindle.

Along with the height increase, the setback has been decreased from a minimum of 110 percent of the system’s height to 75 percent or the minimum setback requirements of the zoning district, whichever is greater. An additional modification would give applicants the potential to obtain an easement from neighboring property owners, which would allow installation of a turbine closer to the property line or to be taller than what is dictated by the confines of the property.

Though allowable noise has been changed from a flat 55 decibels regardless of the surroundings to 20 decibels above ambient noise level measured from the nearest property line, Shinay said it is unclear how the ambient noise level will be measured. In addition, he questioned the wording that says an applicant would be required only after installation to measure sound to verify the turbine’s noise level falls within those limits.

Other changes would allow two turbines on properties between one and five acres and unlimited turbines on lots greater than five acres, provided they generate energy only for the buildings on that property.

Because the proposed ordinance has already been before the council, the meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 15, will be a second reading where councilors could approve the rules.

Shinay said he and Roman have not discussed the possibility of a court challenge if the ordinance passes.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or