Zoning Board must find that the requested special use permit will not alter the general character of the surrounding area.
Two utility scale wind turbines with a blade tip height of approximately 410 feet are proposed for land abutting residential neighborhoods in Charlestown. The Charlestown Zoning Board will conduct a hearing for a special use permit to build and operate the two wind turbines on Tuesday, May 21, at 7 p.m. at Charlestown Elementary School.
In their decision, the Zoning Board must make positive findings. One of those findings must be that the the requested special use permit will not alter the general character of the surrounding area. We do not believe they can make this positive finding.
The wind turbines proposed for this site on Rt. 1 are very large. They will eclipse in height all other elements of the surrounding landscape, and will be frequently visible from a distance. The visual effects of wind turbines are more significant in areas valued for their scenic qualities such as Charlestown. Wind turbines can cause both direct and indirect effects on historic and cultural sites when not sited carefully.
The Rhode Island Renewable Energy Siting Partnership advises that visual impacts associated with wind turbines may be most severe in rural, coastal, or other scenic areas prized by residents for their unadulterated views of nature. “The relationship of residents to surrounding landscapes in such areas may be affected subjectively if residents have a habit of enjoying panoramic views of a landscape and appreciating the absence of man made structures in the view.”
Turbines between ½ and 4 miles from an observer are most noticeable. The applicant will likely propose screening for the closest neighbors, but there is no screening that can hide a 410 foot tall object from Rt. 1. – Rt. 1 in Charlestown is a State designated Scenic Road and has been proposed for nomination as a National Scenic Byway.
The Zoning Board must take into consideration the impact on tourism and the economy of Charlestown as well as the impact of a changed viewscape on property values.
Charlestown’s Comprehensive Plan Element for Economic Development states ,” Charlestown is an attractive community characterized by open space, natural resources, and beautiful coastal areas, all of which attract tourists in the summer months. … The Town’s main revenue source is from residential property taxes, a major share of which is generated by seasonal residents. … Economic improvement in Charlestown is focused on business retention, business expansion in character with the community, and tourism to capitalize on the abundant natural and scenic resources. … The town’s economy is highly dependent on the tourism industry and associated activities. … The Town’s rich coastal resources, rural character, and cultural and historical heritage make tourism and associated activities the most appropriate area in which to devote economic development efforts. … Charlestown should recognize, through its policies, the economic importance of preserving its natural resources and beauty.”
If tourists and summer residents perceive Charlestown’s landscape to be diminished by the presence of Industrial Scale Wind Turbines, then our economy and tax base could suffer.
Home values in many areas of Charlestown are tied to the scenic character of the neighborhood. If home buyers perceive the scenic character to decline, that could translate into lower home values.
It is impossible for two 410 foot tall objects not to alter the landscape of Rt. 1 and surrounding areas. It is likely that these will be perceived by tourists and year round residents alike as a negative impact on the scenic character of Charlestown. The Charlestown Zoning Board cannot make a positive finding that “the requested special use permit will not alter the general character of the surrounding area.
Residents who cannot attend the Zoning Board hearing should send their thoughts and testimony to the Zoning Board by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by postal mail to:
Charlestown Zoning Board
4540 South County Trail
Charlestown, RI 02813