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by Jonathan Thomas
Brooklin voters will soon have the chance to complete a process that began last summer with a series of meetings that led to the appointment of an eight-member tower ordinance committee.
At a special town meeting on October 23, voters approved cell tower and wind turbine moratorium ordinances to allow the committee to prepare ordinances that would regulate these installations.
At a public hearing on Saturday, March 19, at 9 a.m. in the Brooklin School, the committee will present the results of its work for review and discussion. The two ordinances will then be voted on at the April 2 Town Meeting.
Since its appointment by the selectmen, the committee, co-chaired by Richard Hero and Frank John, has held many meetings over several months, reviewed ordinances in use elsewhere and visited wind turbine sites.
Some members of the committee (which includes some planning board members) met with the planning board at its March 3 meeting to present their work to the board and to consider written comments on the ordinances from the town’s attorney James Patterson. During the meeting, committee members made note of additional changes to the ordinances that were still needed prior to the final texts being ready for the March 19 hearing. The subject of decibel levels (of sound) allowed by the wind turbine ordinance was also discussed.
The cell tower ordinance
The 14-page Wireless Communication Ordinance limits the height of cell towers to 190 feet, which is less than the 200-foot height above which continual flashing lights are required. Other significant provisions of the ordinance include setbacks and a review of the visual impact of the tower. A signal propagation study is required to demonstrate that the tower is necessary because no existing tower meets the applicant’s service needs.
The ordinance also contains a requirement for a surety bond sufficient to pay the cost for removing a tower if it is abandoned. In addition to an application fee based on the size of the fenced-in area at the tower base, an applicant is also required to deposit $5,000 to be held in escrow to cover “reasonable and customary” costs by the town in reviewing the application, with any unused amount to be returned to the applicant.
Towers for amateur (ham) radio stations less than 35 feet tall are exempted from the ordinance, as long as the “fall” setback requirement—that is, if the tower were to fall over—of one and one-half times the height of the antenna is met.
The wind turbine ordinance
The 35-page Wind Energy Facility Ordinance for Brooklin was written to provide for the construction and operation of such facilities with “reasonable conditions that will protect the public health, safety, and welfare.”
This ordinance provides some of the same features as the cell tower ordinance, such as setbacks, visual impact assessments, and surety bonds in case of abandonment. However, a major component of this ordinance is its attention to the issue of noise. The ordinance addresses noise by classifying facilities into one of four types, based on generating capacity and height, with different submission and review standards for each type.
The review requirements for small installations with a generating capacity up to 15 kilowatts and a maximum height of 100 feet are less than for commercial facilities producing more than 100 kilowatts of power. Such turbines may be as much as 500 feet tall, measured to the tip of a rotor blade at the highest point in its arc.
Appendix B of this ordinance includes eight pages of technical material detailing the noise control standards that must be met by the largest two categories of wind turbines.
The application fees range from $20 per kilowatt (as specified on the turbine nameplate) for the two smaller classifications to $10,000 for the larger facilities, with the option for an additional escrow deposit if requested.
In addition to co-chairmen Hero and John, other members of the tower ordinance committee are Paul Brayton, Rick Decker, Suzanne Grosh, Jon Hopkins, and Cathy Rees. Al Hutchins, who had also been appointed to the committee, resigned in the fall.