PERU — The town's Industrial Wind Energy Facility Ordinance Committee on Tuesday night changed the maximum tower height in its draft document and will resubmit it to selectmen.
At their Sept. 24 meeting selectmen said they would support the ordinance as submitted, but changed their minds Monday after Committee Chairman Jim Pulsifer thought it was too restrictive and wanted it sent back to the committee.
In a straw poll at the time the committee was formed, two-thirds of residents voted for a restrictive ordinance that would keep wind power out of Peru.
The move came after EDP Renewables North America LLC of Houston, Texas, received a permit in October 2011 to place a meteorological test tower off Black Mountain Road near the Sumner town line. The company is considering building possibly 25 to 35 turbines, a representative told the committee this year.
Meanwhile, the town passed a moratorium on such projects to allow it time to write regulations to govern them. The moratorium expires in May 2013.
The town's attorney, Sally J. Daggett of Jensen, Baird, Gardner, Henry in Portland had cautioned that while the town has the authority to enact reasonable regulations on the location of industrial wind energy facilities, it does not have the authority to expressly or effectively prohibit their construction.
Pulsifer maintained that the maximum sound limits of 25 decibels at night and 35 during the day, 1½ half mile minimum setback from a wind tower to a nonparticipating land parcel, and 300 feet maximum height effectively prohibited wind farms in Peru.
"I am as much against wind power as anyone on this committee," he said, but, "I have a problem with the absurdity of this ordinance."
He pointed out that other restrictions in the ordinance, such as the requirement to furnish a bond to cover the expense of decommissioning, monitoring requirements and complaint process, would deter construction in Peru without inviting a challenge.
Committee member Mike Breau responded that they were all afraid of being sued. "No one wants to be sued, but we have a right to protect our people," he said. "Five years ago our limits wouldn't have been defensible, but now they are defensible because we have more data. If you look at all of the data out there, it is defensible. We are on a learning curve. What existing sites are telling us is their setbacks were too low and their noise limits were too high."
Committee member Philip Bretz noted the time, hard work and study that committee members had put in. "Don't back down now," he said.
The committee supported his recommendation that they stick with the 1½ mile setback and 35 decibel limit for daytime and 25 for nighttime.
After saying they knew of no wind power installations with towers under 328 feet, they increased the height limit to 330 feet.
The draft ordinance will be submitted to selectmen and the Planning Board for their recommendations. A public hearing will be held before the town votes on it.