Eastbrook debates wind turbine sound limits

Posted Sept. 10, 2010, at 12:05 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:07 p.m.

EASTBROOK, Maine — The local comprehensive planning committee met for about two hours Wednesday night but could not come to agreement on what kind of sound limits it should recommend for a wind energy facilities ordinance.

About two dozen people gathered Wednesday night at the town office as the committee met to discuss the proposed ordinance, which is being drafted because of plans by energy company First Wind to construct an 80 megawatt capacity wind farm in Eastbrook and neighboring Township 16. Depending on the size of turbines it decides to use, First Wind hopes to erect 25 to 50 turbines on Bull, Little Bull and Heifer hills.

With comments from the audience, the nine-member committee debated what sort of standards the ordinance should include in order to regulate sound levels, setbacks and turbine heights, among other things. The committee clarified a provision that would require all turbines to be at least a mile away from any home or residen-tial facility and agreed to recommend a turbine height limit of 500 feet.

But committee members did not all agree on what noise control standards should be in the proposed ordinance. Three members were in favor of reducing some of the maximum noise levels listed in the proposed ordinance, but they were overruled by the six other members.

The comprehensive planning committee is not expected to recommend any more changes to the proposed wind energy facilities ordinance. The next steps are to hold a public hearing on the proposed document and then to have it adopted or rejected by local voters.

Tom Martin, a planner with Hancock County Planning Commission who has been hired to consult the town through the planning and permitting process, said Thursday that the proposed ordinance has been derived from a model wind energy facilities ordinance that is similar to others adopted in other Maine towns.

Martin said public hearings have yet to be scheduled for the proposed wind energy facilities ordinance or for proposed amendments to the town’s comprehensive plan and its land use ordinance. All three documents are being amended or crafted in order to address development issues raised by First Wind’s plans, he said.

Public hearings on each of the three related documents likely will be held on the same evening, Martin said. A date for the public hearings has yet to be set, he said, but because of required public comment periods they aren’t likely to be held within the next 45 days.

All three documents will have to be approved by local voters before they can go into effect, Martin said. If they are approved by voters, First Wind then would have to get approval from the local planning board before it could start installing any turbines.

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