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10/22/2009

By Kara Herlihy

The Moretown Select Board will hold a public hearing on Monday, November 2, to review a proposed amendment to the town's zoning regulations. The amendment addresses specific use provisions and conditional use permit requirements for wind turbines.

Residents will have the opportunity to comment on the proposed amendment at the November hearing and vote on whether or not to adopt wind turbine regulations at Town Meeting in March.

The purpose of the amendment is to clarify the need for a permit and to provide regulation guidance beyond the height exemption in section 4.5 ("height requirements") in the Moretown zoning regulations.

Section 3.16, "Wind Turbines," stipulates that applicants that hold a Certificate of Public Good (CPG) from the Vermont Public Service Board (allowing them to net meter their wind turbine) do not need a Moretown zoning permit. Applications must certify that they have received a CPG and submit a CPG certification form to the town zoning administrator.

Under the proposed amendment, applicants without a CPG will be required to obtain a conditional use permit and be subject to conditional use review under the following provisions outlined in the amendment language:

"All turbines shall not be more than 40 feet higher than the surrounding forest canopy as measured from the lowest grade at ground level to the top of the highest structure or component (usually top of the blade). Forest canopy shall be defined as the average height of the five tallest trees within 50 feet of the tower. The maximum height of any wind turbine is 150 ft.

"Wind turbines shall be set back from all property lines, buildings, and public rights of way for a distance equaling their total height, including blades, unless otherwise permitted by the Development Review Board.

"No wind turbine shall be located or operated in such a manner that it poses a potential threat to public health or safety."

The amendment also addresses the potential for adverse aesthetic impact on ridgelines and hilltops. To determine whether the impact is "undue and adverse" the DRB will consider:

"The period of time during which the proposed turbine would be viewed by the traveling public on a public highway; the frequency of the view experienced by the traveling public, background features in the line of sight to the proposed wind turbine that obscure the facility or make it more conspicuous; the sensitivity or unique value of a particular view affected by the proposed wind turbine, and significant disruption of a view shed that provides context to a historic or scenic resource.

The amendment also stipulates that wind turbines shall not be illuminated by artificial means and shall not display strobe lights unless the Federal Aviation Administration or other federal or state authority specifically requires such lighting.

In addition, the use of any portion of a wind turbine for signs other than warning or equipment information signs is prohibited. Access roads and all utility buildings and structures accessory to a wind turbine shall also be designed to aesthetically blend in with the surrounding environment and meet all other requirements for the district in which they are located.

The amendment also requires that all abandoned or unused wind turbines and associated facilities shall be removed within five years of the cessation of operations at the site and the site be restored to its original appearance.

Select board members will hear public comment and review the proposed amendments at a public hearing scheduled for November 2 at 7 p.m. at the Moretown Town Hall. For more information contact select board administrative assistant Cheryl Brown, 496-3645 extension 3.

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