Aquinnah voters approved new zoning regulations governing wind turbines, at a special town meeting Tuesday. The new bylaws aim to reduce the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity, using a combination of energy conservation and the local generation from renewable sources. The zoning law amendments required and got a two-thirds majority in favor.
Forty-six voters participated Tuesday evening, but a quorum call after eight of the 12 articles on the warrant had been approved revealed that too few voters remained to continue. The meeting will reconvene on December 1, at 7 pm, to take up the last four questions, including number 12, which proposes to reduce the quorum requirement for town meetings from 10 percent of all registered voters to five. Aquinnah has had repeated difficulty attracting enough voters to complete town business.
Voters authorized selectmen to borrow $100,000 to repair the town offices building and repaint the interior, including roof shingling, new windows, wiring upgrades. Approval required a two-thirds vote in favor. Voters will need to address the question again, on a December 9 election ballot, when they will be asked to exclude the sum from the provisions of Proposition 2.5.
The zoning changes also attempt to protect “the cultural and natural environment of the town as delineated in the Goals of the Town of Aquinnah District of Critical Planning Concern.” The planning board would be authorized to grant a special permit for a wind turbine, provided it is an accessory to a residential or commercial use. However, a communal wind energy generating facility could be located on a vacant lot without a primary use.
The bylaw provides for three categories of wind energy generating facilities: private single owner, communal, and municipal.
Special requirements would apply to the Moshup Trail and Cliffs DCPC and land within 1,000 feet of the coastline.
The bylaw also addresses community wind and commercial wind energy generating facilities in the ocean waters of Aquinnah. It states, “They shall be comparable, at a minimum, with siting standards in the final Ocean Management Plan and with those developed by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.”
The new bylaws would not apply to the lands of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah). Those lands would only be subject to the town bylaws in effect at the time of the settlement act in 1983 that ended a long-running legal battle and paved the way for federal recognition of the Tribe.
But since the town bylaws at the time did not allow for any structures of the height required for a wind turbine, the tribe would need to seek a variance, according to selectman Camille Rose.
The development of these bylaw amendments has a long history, including five failed attempts to gain voter approval for a wind energy district of critical planning concern (DCPC) for Aquinnah. Voters Tuesday appeared to have had their questions answered. There was little debate.
Money articles approved include a request to appropriate $115,000 in existing community preservation funds to purchase an improved 1.1-acre parcel of land for the purpose of creating community housing; $4,600 from the community preservation fund to bury and remove overhead wires at the Aquinnah Circle.
Left to be considered on December 1 are questions that would allow the tax collector to charge $5 for each demand for payment of a tax bill; appropriate $1,500 to update town GIS maps; appropriate $800 for additional revaluation expenses; and reduce the required quorum for town meetings.