More than a year after it first considered adopting a wind turbine ordinance, the Town Council approved one Monday night, putting in place a 35-foot height limit that will effectively blunt nearly all potential requests.
As yet, no one has proposed a wind turbine in East Greenwich. The decision to enact an ordinance came from a desire to protect the town from the sort of wind turbine that was built two years ago in North Kingstown off Ten Rod Road near Wickford Junction. The Town Council enacted a moratorium on wind turbines in June 2013, asking the Planning Department to research the issue and come up with an ordinance.
Height was the issue that kept coming up as first the Planning Board, and then the Town Council considered the ordinance: What should the height limit be?
According to Town Planner Lisa Bourbonnais, East Greenwich is not a particularly windy location, making it an unlikely candidate for any industrial wind generation, regardless of ordinance restrictions. Wind speed mapping for the area indicated a wind turbine of 30 meters (98 feet) would generate enough speed to make it viable for residential use.
The Planning Department’s initial ordinance called for a 120-foot limit but Planning Board members (who voted to recommend the ordinance to the Town Council in June) lowered the limit to 100 feet.
At the time, Planning Board members wondered if setting a height limit below 100 feet would make it so restrictive as to effectively inhibit anyone from attempting to put up a turbine. In that case, why not just prohibit wind turbines?
The Town Council Monday night took a different tact, approving the ordinance after an amendment proposed by Jeff Cianciolo significantly lowered the height limit, leaving it to a future council, both Cianciolo and President Michael Isaacs said, to adapt the ordinance as it might see fit.
Height is not the sole limitation of the new ordinance.
Only residential property owners with at least 2 acres will be eligible to erect a wind turbine. Interested parties will need to apply for a special use permit to the Zoning Board, which will look at these criteria:
- the specific site is an appropriate location for such use;
- the use is not expected to adversely affect the surrounding neighborhood;
- there is not expected to be any serious hazard to pedestrians or vehicles from the use;
- no nuisance is expected to be created by the use; and
- adequate and appropriate facilities will be provided for the proper operation, maintenance
and protection of the use.