PROSPECT — The wind has died down in Prospect, at least for now.
The Planning and Zoning Commission voted at its meeting last week to impose a one-year moratorium on accepting any new proposed regulations on wind turbines less than one megawatt in size.
“We felt it would make sense at this time to allow time for us to do our own research,” said William Donovan, Prospect’s land use inspector.
Planning and Zoning Chair Donald Pomeroy said the commission wants time to consider the issue, determine whether the town needs regulations and if so what would they be, before bringing them to a public hearing.
The commission is also waiting for the results of the Connecticut Siting Council review. The Siting Council, which regulates commercial wind projects, must come up with new regulations on wind turbines by July 1 of next year.
Donovan said the commission hopes to gain some insight into what sort of regulations to consider based on the arguments brought up in the Siting Council’s debates.
“We think there’s something to glean from them doing their study,” Pomeroy said. “There may not be, but most of us think there could be some information there that could be helpful to us, so let the state do most of our work.”
The commission recently rejected regulations that would have required industrial grade wind turbines to be set back over 3,000 feet from residential property lines among a slew of other restrictions.
“We thought it was far too restrictive,” Pomeroy said. “In our review of the town map, there would be no place whatsoever where a windmill could be erected in Prospect. I think there are places within Prospect where there could be a windmill.”
Save Prospect Corp. advocated for the regulations, saying the town failed to protect them previously when BNE Energy planned to build two large commercial turbines in town.
The Siting Council, which had sole jurisdiction over the matter, rejected BNE’s proposal earlier this year, citing visual impacts.
President of Save Prospect Tim Reilly, who is running for a seat on the commission as an unaffiliated candidate, said the timing of this new moratorium is suspect.
“To me, it’s election politics,” he said.
Reilly said the commission had an opportunity to impose a moratorium a year ago when BNE first proposed their turbines, but failed to act. He contended that the commission should never have approved a meteorological tower in 2008, knowing that if wind tests went well, the applicant planed to build a wind farm.
Pomeroy said the commission’s decision was not politically motivated, especially since he is not running for reelection. After serving over a decade on the commission, Pomeroy said its time for him to move on to other things and make way for new people on the commission.
Reilly accused the commission of leading from behind, saying they complained that the state had complete control over the siting of turbines in Prospect but now waiting to see what the state decides.
Commission members previously stated that turbines would not be allowed in town under its current regulations, which restrict permanent structures to less than 35 feet tall. However, someone could apply for a special permit to bend the rules and build a windmill. The commission will not accept any applications for a special permit for the next year.
Reilly said the 35-foot rule has not prevented wind turbines from being erected in Prospect in the past, as evidenced by the now inert windmill at the home of Town Council member Michael Scaviola.
“I already know that that reasoning does not work. It does not protect the residents,” Reilly said.
Reilly said the new moratorium is politically convenient and delaying regulations for one year will not move the town forward.
“It’s almost schizophrenic. I just don’t understand the choices that they’re making,” Reilly said.