With the six-month moratorium on medium and large wind turbines near expiration, the North Kingstown Town Council unanimously voted to extend the ban by 90 days, potentially allowing the council time to pass a new wind energy ordinance.
The 90-day extension beyond the July 10 expiration date would allow the council time to hold public hearings and move to a vote on the new ordinance, which council members and residents got a peek at Monday night. Among the major changes in the preliminary draft is a height restriction of 160 feet — the blade length of the 427-foot turbine approved by the North Kingstown Planning Commission. (The status of this turbine is still unclear following the second revocation of its would-be-site’s building permit earlier this month.)
These 160-foot turbines would only be permitted in industrial areas, as heights would be capped at 50 feet in commercial and residential zones. Though the allowable turbine height would drop, the ordinance would substantially increase the distance the turbnie's base must be from the property line. The new setbacks would require five times the height of the turbine (from the base to the tip of blade), plus one blade length. If the 427-foot turbine at North Kingstown Green was subject to this standard, the setback distance would be nearly 2,300 feet, instead of its current setback of 393 feet.
Another change in the draft is the return of the special use permit in the application process. Currently, an applicant looking to construct a wind turbine would only need approval from the Planning Commission. The new language would require an applicant to get a conditional approval from the commission, then get a special use permit from the town’s Zoning Board of Review before returning to the commission for final approval.
Turbines would also need to be “appropriately sized to only meet the needs of the on-site consumer.” Noise requirements would also be more restrictive, dropping from 50 dB at the property line in residential areas to 45 dB during the day (from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.) and 35 dB during the night.
The notification to abutters would also change if the new ordinance is adopted, requiring notification to abutters within 10 times the total turbine height.
The draft ordinance was a culmination of work by the North Kingstown Planning Department and residents who have spoken out regarding the turbines, according to town Planning Director Jon Reiner. The group also looked at Charlestown’s wind energy ordinance for reference, Reiner said.
Town Manager Michael Embury told the council the new regulations may be too restrictive. “Theoretically, you can have no locations in town that can meet the restrictions of this ordinance,” Embury said.
Though some members of the council discussed easing some of the restrictions of the draft and adding variances, Council President Elizabeth Dolan disagreed. “We’re trying to create standards,” she said. “Let’s do something rather clear, rather firm to at least get started.”
The Town Council plans to revisit the new ordinance at its next meeting on July 11 at 5:30 p.m.