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Letter: Public Comment for Tuesday's Wind Turbine Hearing

This letter was submitted both as a public comment to the Planning Board and to Wayland Patch for publication as a letter to the editor.

Wayland resident Anette Lewis submitted this letter.

This application for installation of 6 wind turbines within the Town Center Mixed-Use Project is not a request that can be granted by the Wayland Planning Board under Wayland’s current zoning scheme.  And, if the request were to be granted in this instance, then facilities could be placed throughout town without standards or restrictions.

Wayland Zoning Applicable to the Town Center Mixed-Use Project

The Mixed-Use Overlay District (MUOD), which is the applicable zoning district for this development, requires that all development within the district can be accomplished only through the issuance of a Master Special Permit (see Section 198-2304.3.1. of the MUOD bylaw). The Master Special Permit for the entire Mixed-Use Project was issued in January 2008.

Pursuant to Section 198-2304.3.1., the Mixed-Use Project Master Special Permit “specifies the Mixed-Use Project’s design, architectural character, public amenities, site improvements, traffic improvements, mitigation, specific location of buildings, and categories of uses for buildings.”

The Master Special Permit governs all future development in the Mixed-Use Project and all construction and associated improvements must be in compliance with the Master Special Permit. Section 198-2304.3.4.

Section 198-2304.4.1. specifies that the only uses, both principal and accessory, that are permitted in the MUOD are those listed in Table A. Each of the enumerated permissible uses in Table A is allowed either as of right or as part of the Master Special Permit. There is nothing in Table A, even under accessory uses, that would allow approval of wind turbines as part of a site plan approval.* Note that even the “Accessory Use” provision in Table A for “uses and structures customarily incidental to principal use” would require an amendment to the January 2008 Master Special Permit.

During at least two of the Public Hearing sessions, Mr. Dougherty, on behalf of the applicant, stated that the proposed wind turbines fell into the category of utilities and thus could be approved as such.  However, as a prerequisite to issuing the Master Special Permit, the Planning Board (pursuant to Section 198-2304.3.3.) was required to find that the Project as approved would be in compliance with the performance standards in Section 198-2309.  The performance standard for utilities (see Section 198-2309.13) states that to the extent practicable, “utilities on the site shall be placed underground.”  Given that there is an existing Master Special Permit that found that it was practicable to place utilities underground, any such change would require an amendment to the Master Special Permit.

Additional Information Offered
There are several additional arguments that have been raised by those speaking on behalf of the applicant.  Although of no significance to the instant application, they are worthy of discussion in the event the Planning Board decides to draft a bylaw that would permit wind energy units to be sited in Wayland. 

The historical examples, from a period well before the inception of zoning, show wind mills being used essentially for farm and related industrial purposes such as grinding grain.  And, in those examples, the windmills are actually an integral part of a building.  The examples were from a time before the Massachusetts legislature saw fit to allow municipalities to adopt zoning provisions to protect the public health, safety and welfare.

In the City of Worcester, MA (where, according to testimony in the current proceeding, Wal-Mart installed wind vanes in its parking lot) there is a specific and detailed 22-page zoning ordinance that provides the ability to grant a Special Permit for Wind Energy Conversion Facilities see http://www.worcesterma.gov/uploads/c5/16/c516d80b16ccc76fc445f10a4d0e4fe2/zoning-ord.pdf at Article IV, Section 13 beginning at p. 137 of the ordinance (page count 142).  The purpose and intent of the ordinance is “to provide standards for the placement, design, installation, modification, monitoring and decommissioning of these facilities subject to reasonable conditions that will protect the public health, safety and welfare while providing for the production of clean, renewable energy.”

And, in the City of Salem, MA, where the prototype for the proposed Stop & Shop variety of wind turbine is located, there is a specific and detailed 9-page ordinance that provides for the ability to grant a Special Permit for Land-based Wind Energy Facilities see http://salem.com/pages/salemma_dpcd/adopted.pdf at Section 6.9 beginning at p. 35 of the ordinance (page count 38).  The stated purpose of that ordinance is “to accommodate wind energy facilities in appropriate locations, while minimizing any adverse visual, safety, and environmental impacts of the facilities.”

If the Planning Board were to disregard the aforementioned legal impediments (which I submit they cannot do in any event) and grant the application before it, the Board would be opening Wayland up to the indiscriminate placement of ANY type of alternative energy facility on virtually every parcel of land.  And it would not be limited to just one facility per parcel. Moreover, there would be NO applicable standards governing them. That would be an abdication of your responsibility to the citizens of this Town.

Respectfully submitted,

Anette Lewis

*The legal notice in the May 17, 2012 Town Crier announcing the public hearing on this matter refers to a “modification to the Site Plan application for Phase IV Site Plan”; however, the bylaw provides for only Phase I and Phase II Site Plan Review.

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