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Barre Planning Board recommends town not change turbine ordinance

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 November 2018 at 11:04 am

Current zoning caps turbines at 500 feet, which is shorter than nearly 600-foot turbines sought by Apex

Photo by Tom Rivers: Town Supervisor Sean Pogue said the Town Board will consider revisions to the ordinance for wind turbines.

BARRE – The Barre Town Planning decided on Monday that the town’s ordinance for wind turbines is just fine the way it is.

The Planning Board received input from Apex Clean Energy, Clear Skies Above Barre and other residents on possible changes to the ordinance. The Planning Board was going to weigh all the comments and suggestions and make a recommendation by Jan. 1 for possibly revising the town law for turbines.

The board on Monday deemed the current local regulations to meet the needs of the community and a developer of a large-scale wind-energy project.

The Town Board, however, will now look at all the letters and comments submitted to the Planning Board, and may decide on changes, Town Supervisor Sean Pogue said during Wednesday’s board meeting.

The town law caps the turbine height at no more than 500 feet. That would be too small for Apex, which is proposing 47 turbines that would be nearly 600 feet high, at maximum tip height. The Barre turbines also would likely generate 4.2 megawatts per turbine, nearly triple the power from the models from a decade ago which were about 400 feet high.

Barre adopted its wind ordinance in 2008 when a different developer was looking at the town for a project that didn’t end up materializing. Apex has proposed some revisions to the ordinance “to modernize the technological standards of the law,” said Ben Yazman, Apex project manager.

Many Barre residents also want much far setbacks than the current town law. The current ordinance says the turbines need a property line setback of at least 1.5 times the tip height. That is for the property lines where the turbine is located.

The current ordinance also says the turbines need to be at least 1,000 feet from any existing residential or commercial building.

Apex has agreed to 1,500 foot setbacks from residential buildings. Yazman also suggests 1.5 times the tip height for setbacks from property lines for non-participating property owners, or landowners without an Apex lease.

Kerri Richardson, president of Clear Skies Above Barre, said the setbacks should be six times the turbine height. That would be at least 3,600 feet or more than a half mile for 600-foot-tall turbines.

John Metzler, a vocal critic of the project, also wants a noise ordinance to limit the sound of the turbines to 40 decibels, which is less than the 45 decibel cap right now.

Town Board member Tom McCabe said the board members have reams of information to look over.

“We got to sit down and digest them,” he said about all of the written comments and submissions. “We want to dig into some of this stuff.”

Metzler asked the Town Board to inform the community of any meetings where the board will be discussing possible changes in the zoning ordinance for turbines.

“It’s not because we want to cause trouble it’s because we care about our community,” Metzler told the board on Wednesday evening. “People first has always been our main thing.”

Pogue said no meetings have been scheduled yet.

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