TOWNSEND -- A proposed amendment that would add a wind energy systems section to Townsend's zoning bylaws will be discussed at a public hearing on Sept. 23 before going up for a vote at Special Town Meeting.
Planning Administrator Jeanne Hollows said the bylaw is preemptive action taken by the Planning Board in anticipation of possible future proposals for wind energy, and not as a response to any current proposals.
"We thought the town might want to be proactive in getting a bylaw in place prior rather than having someone come in with an application," Hollows said.
The bylaw lays out the process for applying for a permit for a wind energy facility, requirements for the location and design of the facility itself, as well as safety and environmental standards.
In its first paragraph, the draft, which was developed by the Planning Board with the assistance of the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission, explains its intent.
"The purpose of this bylaw is to minimize the impacts of wind turbines on the character of neighborhoods, property values, scenic, historic and environmental resources of the town and to protect health and safety while allowing wind energy," the proposed bylaw reads.
Although Hollows said that a recent study by the MRPC showed very little wind in Townsend, that doesn't mean the bylaw might not be useful.
"This would allow small wind farms on residential property. If it's on a hill or somewhere where the wind is better, people may be able to benefit," she said.
Studies have turned out to be incorrect in measuring wind in other towns, and could prove incorrect in Townsend as well, she said.
Hollows said the Planning Board has sent the draft out to all of the town boards and committees, and has received only a few comments. They have also received few public comments so far.
At the Aug. 27 Board of Selectmen meeting, Town Administrator Andrew Sheehan said that while Townsend might not be ideal for wind energy, the bylaw would be good to have in place.
"We're not a great candidate for wind power here, but it's one of those things that's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it," Sheehan said.
Although Townsend's wind levels are low now, the town should be prepared in case that changes, Sheehan said.
"The technology could change that makes wind energy more desirable or financially profitable," he said.
After the Sept. 23 public hearing, the bylaw will be on the warrant at Special Town Meeting, which has been scheduled for Oct. 29.
Hollows said that Townsend's status as a green community made it important to have a plan in place that would allow for renewable energy.
"Whenever a town can put something like this in place, I think it can only benefit. It might open up options for people and it's the way things are going now. Better to get on board than to have someone come in and not be prepared," she said.
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