FARMINGTON — Following a discussion on sound levels allowed in wind energy systems, selectmen held off adding an article on the proposed standards to the April 2 town meeting warrant.
During Tuesday's public hearing the board considered adding the performance standards to the town's zoning ordinance.
After listening to thoughts expressed during the hearing, Code Enforcement Officer Steve Kaiser wanted the Planning Board to review and consider the ideas voiced. The board has 30 days before town meeting to finalize the proposed ordinance changes, he said.
The Planning Board has studied the issue for a year and applied the research to performance standards for both residential and commercial wind energy systems, Town Manager Richard Davis said.
While the proposed wind energy standards would prohibit exceeding 60 decibels at the closest property line, Burt Knapp suggested the standard should be 30 decibels, like in the town of Phillips. Knapp said 60 decibels would be like a conversation at the property border 24/7.
Planning Board member Tom Eastler measured the meeting conversation on a decibel meter finding the soft-spoken Knapp rated 50 decibels while Eastler's voice, closer to the unit, rated an 80.
The proposed standards require a setback distance from abutting property lines and roads equal to 105 percent of the tower height. Eastler suggested that distance plus the distance of a house to the property line would bring the decibel level down even more.
Wind systems are based on the velocity of air, which means Farmington's not a good wind turbine site, Eastler said. They need to be erected on higher ground, not down in a valley, he added.
The proposed ordinance additions include obtaining a permit for both residential and commercial systems, on-site visits from the code enforcement officer and perhaps the Planning Board, and notification to abutters of intent to build a wind tower.
In addition to the setback and decibel limits, the standards for residential systems would prohibit interruption of radio or television signals, and require a fence around the tower. It would also require removing a system if it hasn't produced power for a period of 12-consecutive months.
Commercial systems standards would also include rules applying to visual appearance, lighting, signs, shadow flickering and screening to minimize visual impact.
The ordinance would include a $50 fee for a residential wind energy system permit application and a $500 fee for each wind tower in a commercial energy system application.
Existing systems would be exempt as would systems used for pumping water on working farms. Eastler suggested adding an exemption for systems used to aerate water in fish ponds.