Woodstock wind draft proposes tighter restrictions
Under a newly-proposed ordinance, if a developer wishes to build a commercial wind project in Woodstock in the future, neighbors within a two-mile radius of the towers will be notified, and decibel levels will be set significantly below the state requirement.
The Woodstock Wind Ordinance Committee presented a draft to selectmen Tuesday, explaining and discussing it for an hour.
The committee has been at work on the ordinance for more than a year, drawing on state requirements, ordinances from other towns and Woodstock’s own experience with the existing Spruce Mountain Wind project.
“We felt SMW was the ideal Exhibit A,” said committee Chair Bob Elliott.
Several parts of the ordinance address the concerns of SMW neighbors, who have complained about noise from the turning blades.
The committee in some cases crafted rules stricter than those of the state, which were used in the approval process for the SMW project.
This summer camp owners on Concord and Shagg ponds, many of whom are summer residents, complained about noise from the SMW towers, which are about a mile away.
They also objected to the fact that, because they are not abutters, they did not received formal notification of the project as it was in the application process.
The proposed ordinance, if approved by voters at the March town meeting, would require notification for anyone within two miles of the towers.
Among other key requirements proposed:
Decibel levels would be limited to 35 from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily, and 45 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., compared to the state’s 45 and 55 requirements at the time of the SMW application.
A setback requirement of 1.25 miles would be required from the base of each tower to the closest point on any property line (of a non-participating property). Elliott said that distance would likely eliminate any “flicker” effect on neighbors caused by shadows of the turning blades.
If, during any phase of the application process, the town Planning Board decides an independent expert should be hired to evaluate the plan, the town can require an escrow account be established by the developer in the amount of $20,000 to pay for the consultant. The account could also be used to hire a third-party acoustical consultant if problems arose after construction.
Complaints filed after operations begin would go to the Woodstock code enforcement officer. Currently, complainants contact the wind company directly.
“We’ve created a complaint process that goes through the CEO, not the company,” Elliott told selectmen.
Complaints would be filed in writing, and if deemed legitimate by the CEO and selectmen, the CEO could hire a consultant.
Selectman Rick Young said he liked the requirement that complaints be in writing, “so we’re not running out for every phone call.”
In comparing the strictness of their proposed ordinance to others they studied, Elliott said Woodstock’s falls in the middle range.
Committee member Charlie Reiss said the group tried to find the right balance that would make future projects tolerable for neighbors without creating restrictions so severe that the projects would be impossible to build.
Selectman Rick Young said he had read all of the 12-page ordinance before the meeting. “I’m impressed. I thought it was very thorough,” he said.
The committee will continue meeting and making adjustments to the proposal, in anticipation of the town meeting vote in March.
Copies of the proposed ordinance are available at the Town Office.
In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, selectmen:
Set a public hearing for Oct. 16 at 5:30 p.m. to open the Billings Hill Road to winter maintenance.
Received another petition requesting a fireworks ordinance. The petition asks that consumer fireworks be restricted to New Year’s Eve and July 3 and 4. An earlier petition, received two weeks ago, asked for a ban but also said, “At a minimum, we would like to have you consider banning them within 300 yards of a lake or pond,” noting that a lake acts as an “echo chamber,” causing the sound to reverberate. Selectmen took no action Tuesday, but said they have enough complaints that they will ponder a possible ordinance proposal.