BROOKSVILLE, Maine — Voters in this Hancock County town will cast ballots next Tuesday on a proposed ordinance that would effectively prohibit commercial wind power facilities in their community.
Last spring, 10 members of a Brooksville ordinance committee settled on a proposal that would prohibit new wind power turbines with towers standing more than 100 feet tall. The proposal will now go to town voters for consideration during Tuesday’s general election.
Such a height restriction would still permit smaller, personal wind turbines, with approval from either the planning board or code enforcement officer, depending on the size. But the proposed ordinance would prohibit most commercial wind turbines, the majority of which in Maine have towers that are 250 to 300 feet tall.
The proposal would also limit the size of any proposed wind energy projects by capping the maximum generation capacity of any facility at 50 kilowatts. Finally, the proposed ordinance would set noise standards for turbines, stating that facilities shall not exceed 35 decibels for any continuous, five-minute period — except during unusual weather events — as measured from neighboring properties. If enacted, those noise restrictions would be more stringent than new standards proposed by the Maine Board of Environmental Protection.
Sarah Cox, who chaired the town’s ordinance committee, said the group wanted to be proactive in addressing residents’ concerns over the height of wind turbines and potential noise from the turbines. The committee reviewed more than a dozen wind power ordinances developed in other towns — including several on the Blue Hill peninsula — when designing an ordinance for Brooksville.
“We thought 100 feet was a reasonable number,” Cox said, referring to the proposed height restriction.
Located on the southern end of Blue Hill peninsula, Brooksville is close enough to the islands of Vinalhaven and North Haven for some residents to see the three commercial wind power turbines erected by the local electrical co-op. Cox said local residents and committee members were aware of the concerns raised in Vinalhaven about noise from the turbines, but Brooksville likely does not feature the right type of wind conditions to support a commercial operation.
Brooksville voters approved a moratorium on wind power development back in January in order to give the town’s ordinance committee time to develop the rules.
The proposed ordinance would create a two-tiered system that individuals interested in erecting a turbine or turbines would have to navigate.
For systems with a generating capacity of less than 3 kilowatts, the application would be reviewed by the town’s code enforcement officer. The Brooksville Planning Board, meanwhile, would be responsible for approving or rejecting applications for systems capable of generating more than 3 kilowatts.
The proposed ordinance also requires would-be developers to provide documents detailing the anticipated sound levels from the turbines at the property line as well as the turbines’ distance from roads, adjacent property lines, habitable structures, significant wildlife habitat, streams, ponds and wetlands.
Town residents approved an ordinance regulating wireless communications towers last year.