No turbines, solar panels above 1,700 feet

A proposed rewrite of Waitsfield Town Plan prohibits wind turbines and solar panels above 1,700 feet in the town’s forest reserve district.


The town planning commission has been working on rewriting the Town Plan since last fall and has drafted alternative energy standards that are more specific than those in the current Town Plan. The current plan prohibits wind farming on the Northfield Ridge.

In 2010, Citizens Energy came to the town to explore the feasibility of siting up to 24 turbines on the top of the Northfield Ridge and asked the town to revise the Town Plan to allow such a project. Citizens Energy has taken no further formal action.

The proposed Town Plan spells out specific community standards for siting wind turbines and solar panels, which the Vermont Public Service Board will consider when permitting such projects.

The proposed plan prohibits wind turbines on scenic ridgelines above 1,700 feet, requires that turbines incorporate a simple design in unobtrusive colors, use guyed monopoles rather than free-standing lattice towers, have a low noise rating, are sited at the edge (rather than in the center) of scenic vistas, are limited in height to 40 to 60 feet above nearby trees/structures and are sited to “avoid impacts on significant natural and cultural features, including views from the town’s designated scenic roads.”

The proposed plan is similarly specific about the installation of solar panels. Solar power systems will need to be located outside of primary agricultural soils, regardless of whether the site is actively being farmed. Such installations will need to be sited along the edge (rather than in the center) of scenic views so that they are not the prominent focal point and so that impacts “on significant natural and cultural features are minimized.”

The planning commission discussed the proposed changes at its August 16 hearing but did not formally adopt the Town Plan yet. After the planning commission completes its rewrite of the Town Plan, it will hold a public hearing on the plan before sending it to the select board for review. The select board will also hold a public hearing before adopting the plan.