Antrim board to hear petition on wind farms
ANTRIM — Portsmouth-based Antrim Wind Energy LLC, which hopes to bring a large-scale wind farm to the Tuttle Hill and Willard Mountain ridgelines, wrote the zoning petition to adopt standards for wind farms in town.The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the petition article at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Town Hall.
Jack Kenworthy, chief executive officer of Antrim Wind Energy LLC, said on Tuesday the company is committed to moving forward with the wind project and the proposed zoning ordinance is based on the previous agreement between Antrim Wind and selectmen.
"Certainly it was an effort that was initiated by Antrim Wind and drafted from the contract, the previous agreement that Antrim Wind had entered into with the town," Kenworthy said.
Whether the town should allow wind farm developments — specifically Antrim Wind's plan to erect wind turbines on along the Tuttle Hill and Willard Mountain ridgelines — has been debated among residents for several years.
Last February, the state Site Evaluation Committee denied Antrim Wind's application to build 10 492-foot-tall wind turbines along the ridgelines, saying the aesthetic impact to the surrounding conservation and open land would have been too great.
Then in the summer, the committee denied Antrim Wind and the town's appeal for a rehearing of the case.
Antrim Wind Energy is a subsidiary of Portsmouth-based Eolian Renewable Energy.
Kenworthy said Antrim Wind is working on a new plan that aims to satisfy concerns about aesthetics.
An application for a 30-megawatt or more project would go through the Site Evaluation Committee again; however, Antrim Wind may propose a smaller project, which it could apply for at the local level.
The petition article, signed by 42 residents, would provide for the development of commercial wind farms in the rural conservation district and the highway business district.
The ordinance would also include standards on proper construction, public health and safety, noise, environmental and visual impact as well as require operational agreements with the town.
The 2014 March Town Meeting will be the third year in a row that voters would have an ordinance before them that specifically allows for large-scale wind facilities. Previous attempts to pass such ordinances have failed.
"It was our view that the ordinance was rejected because it contained standards that were overly restrictive and wouldn't have allowed a project to plausibly move forward," Kenworthy said.
Resident and wind project "intervener" Mary Allen said Antrim Wind representatives had urged residents to vote against the previously proposed wind ordinances because of the standards that would have been required, such as a height restriction of 400 feet, noise restrictions and a requirement of studies such as the impact on birds and bats.
"The devil is in the details," Allen said, and the current proposed wind ordinance is too general.
Kenworthy disagreed, saying the proposed ordinance sets standards agreeable to the selectmen and similar to those set for other wind projects in the state.
The allowable decibel levels proposed are higher than in previously proposed wind ordinances. The allowable height of a wind turbine would also be higher, restricted to no more than 500 feet.
"It's absolutely tailored for their project. We're in strange times here," Allen said.
She added she has spoken to some residents who mistakenly signed the petition because they thought they were merely supporting an up or down vote on whether wind projects should be allowed in town.
Residents support or oppose the project for various reasons, Allen said, but most just want the debate to end.
"It's eroding our social fabric here in town," Allen said.
"I think if you were to ask most people in Antrim, they hate it. They hate that this has made factions. We're not a warring town normally."