Voters here will be asked at the annual town meeting in March to approve an ordinance regulating wind turbines in their community.

Peter Kassen, chairman of the town’s planning board, said the ordinance is the result of action taken at the annual town meeting in 2009. At that time, he said, voters enacted a moratorium on wind turbine construction and asked the planning board to come up with an ordinance regulating the structures.

Since that time, the planning board and a subcommittee have worked on putting an ordinance together. The planning board recently approved a draft ordinance and sent it to selectmen for their review.

Kassen said there will be a public meeting Wednesday, March 10 at 7 p.m., at which time residents will be given a chance to comment on the ordinance and ask questions about it. The meeting will take place at either the Town Office or the nearby Town House (both located on Center Road), depending on the size of the audience.

The ordinance is focused on larger, industrial-size wind turbines, Kassen said, noting that homeowners who wish to install smaller turbines would not be subject to the same regulations.

“There are limits [on the larger turbines],” he said. “It’s not an outright ban, but there are certain restrictions on the larger industrial wind turbines.”

Roy Antaki, who chaired the subcommittee, said the group, which ranged in size from seven to 10 people, met every Thursday night for about six months in order to write the ordinance. He estimated group members put in more than 2,000 hours of research on the project, and said writing the ordinance required that much time, “because it is a complex issue.”

Antaki said the final draft of the ordinance, which is 42 pages long, is very detailed and is also accompanied by a 15-page fact-finding document. The latter piece, he said, explains where the subcommittee found the information used in crafting the ordinance and why members chose to use it.

“Some people are not convinced,” Antaki said. “They say, ‘We want the facts.’ This pamphlet spells out all the facts, where we got them and why we’re using them.”

Antaki said the subcommittee looked at other ordinances from around the country and even some from Europe. He said they did not rely on any information from Maine state government.

“Unfortunately, the state of Maine is influenced by wind turbine companies, and is not, in our opinion, objective,” he said.

Antaki said the subcommittee wanted to be fair to the wind turbine companies, but also wanted to pay equal attention to protecting the citizens of Montville. Members of the subcommittee looked at the experiences of some other communities in Maine as examples.

When wind turbines first came to neighboring Freedom, Antaki said, he and others couldn’t understand why some people were voicing objections.

“We are green,” he said. “We felt it was a non-issue.”

After going to Freedom and seeing the turbines firsthand, though, Antaki said he came away with a different impression.

“They are noisy, and they are disturbing,” he said. “We realized that even though turbines are a good thing, they must be built at a certain distance from peoples’ houses.”

Antaki also said that since Maine is known to many for its relatively quiet way of life, an abundance of noisy turbines in populated areas could potentially scare off tourists or people looking for a new place to call home.

“Because, possibly, they will not come or retire close to areas where there are turbines or where there may be turbines,” he said.

Antaki’s wife, Ana, is also a member of the subcommittee. She addressed some of the specific requirements of the ordinance, including setbacks and noise regulations.

The ordinance will apply to any turbines 100 kilowatts or larger, and any turbine 150 feet or taller. Any turbines smaller than that, she said, would not be subject to the restrictions of the ordinance.

For comparison, Roy Antaki said the wind turbine located at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association site just off Route 220 in Thorndike is a 10-kilowatt turbine. He reiterated his wife’s point, saying any turbine smaller than 100 kilowatts would not need to get a permit from the town.

Ana Antaki said minimum setbacks – the distance from a wind turbine to a specific point, such as a residence or property line – in other communities range from one to three miles, and that members of the Montville subcommittee settled on one mile as the minimum setback for their community.

Regarding noise requirements, Ana Antaki said subcommittee members realized early on there were two types of sound to be concerned with – those at higher frequencies, such as human speech, which are measured as dBA; and those at lower frequencies, such as the sound from earthquakes or avalanches, which are measured as dBC.

The lower-frequency sounds are especially troubling, Ana Antaki said, as those are the ones that people report being able to perceive physically.

“You will hear people say, ‘I feel it in my chest,’ or ‘I feel it on my sternum,'” she said.

People also experience physiological effects from wind turbines, according to Ana Antaki, including sleep disturbance, migraine headaches and a persistent ringing in the ears.

Part of the permitting process, as spelled out in the ordinance, would be to determine what the ambient background noise is at and adjacent to a proposed wind turbine site, and then to determine how the turbine(s) might impact that noise level.

Ana Antaki also said the subcommittee decided to give people in town some flexibility by allowing for mitigation waivers. This, she said, acknowledges that not everyone would be affected by wind turbines in the same way, and gives those who wish to do so the right to waive the setback requirements.

“It allows abutting landowners to have a choice,” she said.

If wind turbine developers do come to Montville in the future, Ana Antaki said, this ordinance would help give residents certain protections.

“What we have tried to do here is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the residents,” she said.

For more information, visit the town’s Web site at montvillemaine.org.