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Lyme passes “small wind” zoning law

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CHAUMONT — After a lengthy, final debate over restrictions on private wind turbines, the Lyme Town Council adopted Wednesday night new zoning regulations for “small wind” and other renewable energy development.

The vote was 3-2, with Supervisor Scott G. Aubertine and Councilman Donald R. Bourquin opposing.

“Just go ahead and vote on it. The whole thing is useless,” said Councilman Bourquin after advocating several times for reduced setbacks to no avail.

Under the new rules, minimum property line setbacks will be five times the height of the turbine and residents will not be able to install personal turbines taller than 125 feet, including the blades.

Mr. Aubertine, who suggested a turbine setback of 2.5 times the structure’s height as a compromise, said the rules were too restrictive and would effectively “exclude 90 percent” of town property owners from putting up small wind turbines.

Councilman David A. Henderson defended the five-times-turbine-height setback, arguing that it is a safety measure to prevent potential injuries due to ice throw or from turbine blade failures.

“If it excludes 90 percent, I’m sorry, but to me, it’s a safety issue. That’s what zoning laws are for,” Mr. Henderson said, adding that he also deems “reasonable” the height limit which some people have criticized during the process of drafting the law.

Mr. Bourquin shot back, suggesting that the town is discriminating against wind development in particular.

“Sometimes I think we’re putting restrictions on these structures, in the name of safety, that I don’t think we’d be putting on anything else other than wind,” Mr. Bourquin said.

Councilman Daniel J. Villa said his main concern was turbine noise levels and that he was in favor of the law the way it was written.

The maximum power output rating for small wind turbines will be 50 kilowatts and the law caps turbine noise levels at 35 decibels at night, from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., and 50 decibels during the day.

“It’s never going to be perfect for everyone,” Mr. Villa said.

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