To the Editor:
Enclosed with this letter to Island planning boards are model regulations prepared for the Island Wind District of Critical Planning Concern.
On November 5 and December 17, 2009, at the request of the towns, the MVC designated the Ocean Zone and Land Zones respectively of the Island Wind District of Critical Planning Concern.
The District includes the airspace above elevation 220 feet in the Ocean Zone and above 150 feet in the Land Zone. After being informed that most towns consider zoning amendments only at their spring annual town meetings, the MVC adopted interim DCPC regulations on November 3, 2010, requiring all applications for wind turbines in the District be referred to the MVC as Developments of Regional Impact until the towns are able to adopt District regulations in conformance to the District Guidelines.
The MVC’s interim regulations will expire November 3, 2011, unless earlier superseded by a town’s adoption of District regulations.
The model regulations were prepared by MVC staff in collaboration with the Wind Energy Plan for Dukes County Work Group, made up of representatives of boards of selectmen, planning boards, and/or energy committees from all towns in Dukes County, as well as representatives of the tribe, the MVC, the county, and some nonprofit organizations.
The model regulations were approved by consensus by the Work Group on December 21, 2010. The members of the Work Group were not unanimous on a number of issues addressed by the model regulations. However, after working on these regulations for several months, the consensus of the Work Group was that the model regulations reflected a sincere effort to address the pertinent issues and that the model regulations should be submitted to the planning boards for their consideration in drafting the towns’ Island Wind DCPC regulations.
The preparation of these model regulations was an intensive effort that involved considerable research and participation by the Work Group to draft a by-law that meets the district guidelines, especially the balance implicit in the overall goal, namely “To protect the natural, cultural, and economic resources in the County of Dukes County, while allowing for development of wind energy facilities consistent with the enabling legislation of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), Chapter 831 of the Acts of 1977 as amended.”
The MVC hired an acoustical engineer to advise on the sound section, and the entire model regulation has been reviewed by commission counsel. These regulations assume that the MVC will extend the district dimensions down to the ground and seabed, in order to deal with all components of a wind energy facility. The regulations also deal with proposals less than 150 feet high, located in areas of critical regional impact identified as areas of special concern. This will mirror proposed changes to the MVC’s DRI checklist that the Work Group suggests the commission adopt in the coming year.
The Work Group felt that there would be many advantages to having all towns use the same regulations, at least for the Ocean Zone. However, each town may modify these model regulations, or prepare its own regulations, consistent with the district guidelines.
Each town must have its draft regulations reviewed for conformance with district guidelines before adopting them at town meeting. Towns might also find these draft regulations useful as a basis for their regulations of wind energy facilities other than those covered by the Island Wind DCPC (in most towns, this is for turbines under 150 feet not located in areas of special concern).
Given the complexity of the regulations, the issues involved, and the remaining interactive review process, we suggest that it would be useful that the two of us meet each planning board at your earliest possible convenience to answer any questions that you may have regarding the regulations and the coordination of the next steps in the review and adoption process. We look forward to these meetings and moving this effort to completion.
Wind Energy Plan for Dukes County Work Group
Martha’s Vineyard Commission