DIXFIELD — The Planning Board fielded questions from the public Thursday night before continuing to its workshop on the latest draft of the town's wind power development ordinance.
During the unscheduled board workshop Jan. 3, Chairman Tom Childs told the public they would have to save their questions for the Jan. 17 board meeting. Several residents attended to discuss concerns about specific areas of the ordinance.
“Before anyone speaks, I'd ask that we try to keep the discussion to around 30 minutes,” Childs said, “and when each person speaks, try to keep it to 10 minutes or less. We have a lot to go over here, but I want to be fair and let you speak.”
Resident Alice McKay-Barnett brought a series of maps displaying setback data and passed them to board members. She said new studies have been released for Spruce, Saddleback and other mountains that found by setting back the wind turbines 4,000 feet from a residence, there are still decibel levels between 42 and 45, as well as the opportunity for debris from the turbine to cause property damage.
“There are reports in California of turbines sending debris flying up to 4,200 feet,” McKay-Barnett said. “There's been reports of blade failure and turbine fires.”
Resident Dan McKay added there are limited studies being done that prove that the sounds produced by a turbine can be felt up to 2 miles away at low frequency levels.
“I don't want to be reading my newspaper in the morning, hearing a sound and constantly wondering what it is,” McKay said.
McKay-Barnett also presented a handmade map documenting the effect wind turbines would have on property values.
“Good luck trying to sell your house with a turbine behind you,” McKay-Barnett told the board. “People have been saying we have a depressed market right now, but with views like we have in Dixfield, we'd never have a problem selling. The turbines would decrease the value of our property.”
Planning Board member Craig Coulthard asked McKay-Barnett if she had studies and documented proof to back up her concerns,
“Yes," she said. "I'll clean up my act here and get all that information to you.”
Resident Norman Mitchell told the board he researched “points of contention between the wind ordinance and the town's Comprehensive Plan.” He said there needs to be continuity among all town ordinances.
One area Mitchell pointed out in the Comprehensive Plan is where it states that turbines must measure setback distance from property lines, not the actual residence.
“If these wind companies are measuring the setback distance from the dwelling, you're allowing the company to take property from you,” Mitchell said. “If I own land, my son would never be able to build a house on it.”
As an example, Mitchell pointed out that historically, certain private property, such as junkyards and graveyards, require setback distances from the property line and not the dwelling itself.
McKay told the board that in November 2010, the town had an opportunity to vote on changes made to the Comprehensive Plan, but voted not to make them.
“You'll either have to do a re-vote on the Comprehensive Plan, or make sure that the wind ordinance fits the guidelines stated in the Comprehensive Plan,” McKay said.
The Planning Board will meet Feb. 7 but there will be no public participation, Childs said.