Wind turbine ordinance on Cumberland horizon

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CUMBERLAND — Wind turbines could become part of the Cumberland landscape if the Town Council decides to move forward discussion of a wind energy system ordinance.

A workshop on the draft ordinance will be held Monday, Aug. 24 at 6 p.m. in Town Hall.

The impetus for the possible ordinance came from the Cool Cities Committee, Town Manager Bill Shane said, which brought up the question of residential and other turbines after a municipal turbine study proposal fell through. The town last year applied for a grant to measure the potential of erecting a turbine at the public works building, but a private company said doing so was a waste of time – the location doesn’t generate enough wind.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other, windier locations in town. The town planner drafted the Small Wind Energy Systems Ordinance, modeled after an ordinance approved in Yarmouth earlier this summer, and will present it to the council in a workshop Monday.

Shane said the proposal isn’t a question of wind power so much as public policy. “I think everyone is supportive of wind power,” he said, “but not everyone wants (turbines) in every backyard.”

While allowing turbines would benefit the few citizens who opt to build them, it would impact the many citizens who would see the turbines, Shane said, making it a very “political decision.”

He said wind energy systems are a great idea from an energy conservation and production standpoint, but they “may not be a good idea from a land use standpoint.” That policy decision will be up to the Town Council, who could later decide to send the draft ordinance to the Planning Board for review.

The draft ordinance includes restrictions on the design and height of allowable turbines and sets lot size and setback requirements. Lattice pole designs and guy wires would not be allowed under the current draft, leaving only mono-pole designs of up to 100 feet as an option. There is a provision allowing 125-foot poles if a practical reason for the increased height is approved during site plan review. Lots must be at least 2 acres, contain only one turbine, and setbacks of 200 feet would be required. Noise requirements are also proposed based on the district in which the turbine is built. Turbines would be allowed in all zones as a special exception, accessory use.

A copy of the draft ordinance can be found on the town Web site in the Aug. 10 Town Council packet.

Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or