The Block Island Times
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Planning board chisels out wind and solar regulations

By Gloria S. Redlich | Sep 19, 2013

For nearly a year the Planning Board has been drafting regulations for wind energy conversion (WECS) and solar energy systems, and continued to chip away at the language of those draft regulations at its Sept. 11 meeting.

Town Planner Jane Weidman noted that in developing the regulations, the subcommittee tasked with drawing them up wished to “make it easier for land-owners to put in these systems.” That subcommittee is comprised of Sam Bird, Henry duPont, Sven Risom and Chris Warfel.

Weidman explained that the charge of the subcommittee was “to remove barriers to alternative energy — wind and solar.”

On developing WECS regulations, Weidman cited two new categories. The first was residential/small business WECS, defined as “a wind turbines installed for the purpose of providing a power source for one or more residences or businesses on site.” The second new category was commercial WECS: “a wind turbine for the purpose of generating power to offset commercial or municipal electricity use.”

Discussion turned on the values of small versus large capacity turbines. John Spier said, “I don’t like the small ones, but [favor] a few big ones,” while also saying he found them aesthetically appealing. Discussion focused on the market for limited capacity turbines, the noise and visual impact, a need to keep neighbors informed and how to balance the needs of a community divided on the wind issue.

Among considerations discussed were the siting of solar panels, with Chair Margie Comings expressing concern that the panels not be located in front yards and that every opportunity be provided to neighbors who may wish to weigh in.

Member Sam Bird said, “We weighed the pluses and minuses in putting this [the draft document] together; we wanted to strike a balance between establishing them [turbines] and protecting neighbors.”

With the group still unresolved about the language of the draft, Comings asked Weidman and her committee to examine it again, with a view to “giving us parameters that are tight, but looser than those in it now.”

After much deliberation on aesthetics, the conflict of individual rights, and when and if special use permits (SUP) should be sought, the board sent the draft back to Weidman and the subcommittee for more work.

In other business, three items were continued to the next meeting: 1). applications by Lewis and Nathaniel Gaffett concerning Plat 7, Lots 159-1, 159-2, 165 and 160; Plat 10, Lots 68-6 and 68-7; a Public Hearing for Minor Subdivision for the Elimination of Right of Way on Plat 10, Lot 68-6 and Plat 7, Lot 159-1; creation of a relocated Right of Way on Plat7, Lot 159-1 to access Plat 10, Lot 68-7.

2). A re-application for a Minor Subdivision by Blake Phelan for Plat 10, Lot 23-1, a property off Payne Road.

3). Payne’s 1614 Realty, LLC. Plat 5, Lot 111: Advisory to the Zoning Board for an application for a Special Use Permit under Sections 408, 409 and 703 regarding Payne’s Harbor View Inn.

On another issue, the board approved and recommended to the Town Council the adoption of an amendment to the New Shoreham Zoning Ordinance that would “ensure public safety, minimize hazard to persons and property from flooding, protect watercourses from encroachment and maintain the capability of floodplains to retain and carry off floodwaters.” In doing so the town will comply with the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968.

The board also heard a proposal for a shed on Plat 6, Lot 90 by the Block Island Early Learning Center. Gretta Heinz and Stacy Henshaw, both members of the ELC board, explained that they needed the shed for adequate storage of preschool equipment. They were asked to return with an official application, with Comings advising them, “Your application needs to show gates, fences, shed —include everything you need.”

The next Planning Board meeting is set for Oct. 7.

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