Selectmen voted unanimously Feb. 16 to pursue a moratorium on wind farms in Union while the town drafts new regulations for the energy producers, according to Town Manager Jay Feyler.

He said selectmen cannot impose the moratorium on their own authority. Such action must be approved by voters at the annual town meeting June 14. Selectmen will hold informational meetings on the issue and draft a proposal for the town meeting warrant.

Feyler said, however, that the selectmen’s vote to pursue the moratorium could block a wind project proposed between now and the town meeting. He said the law allows the town to back-date the moratorium if it is approved to the time of the selectmen’s vote to pursue it.

Selectman John Gibbons announced recently that the town is in the process of drafting a proposed wind energy ordinance.

The town held a public hearing on the proposed wind facility regulations Feb. 17 at the Union Town Hall. Gibbons said about seven people attended the meeting.

The committee will likely work on the proposed Wind Energy Facility Ordinance for another month to six weeks and then the ordinance will go to the voters at town meeting June 14.

“In the meantime, the recent controversy over the Fox Islands Wind Project in Vinalhaven has created some doubt about the adequacy of the state’s wind power noise standards, which form part of the basis for Union’s draft ordinance,” a press release from the town said.

Gibbons said some kinds of rhythmic sounds that repeat for hours on end can be very annoying, and that isn’t completely addressed by measuring the loudness alone. Another issue to take into consideration with wind power is the flickering light caused by the sun beaming through the spinning blades.

Last fall, selectmen asked the Land Use Ordinance Revision Committee to develop wind power regulations, and have them ready for a vote at the next town meeting.

“The selectmen were motivated by the rate at which wind towers are being developed all across the state with impetus from the federal and state governments, and the controversy that they have generated where they are already operating,” the press release said. “Although wind towers constitute an undeniable public benefit, they are also sources of noise and other emissions that can be very annoying to neighbors unless they are properly regulated. Currently, the town’s Land Use Ordinance is devoid of any regulations that govern wind towers, and the Union Planning Board and the town’s code officer accordingly have very little power to regulate them.”

So far, the proposed town ordinance is modeled after the state’s wind facility regulations, according to Gibbons.

“The committee plans to modify the language in the state model so that small wind power facilities, suitable for home or farm use, are largely exempt from many of the regulations,” the press release said. “The committee also plans to add language specifically targeted to so-called wind farms, or groups of much larger wind towers that are typically built on the top of a hill or along a ridge line.”

Gibbons said existing wind power facilities may be grandfathered and exempted from the new regulations. He also said there are no new or pending applications before the town for wind power facilities.

A copy of the draft ordinance is available at the town office. There will be at least three additional public hearings on the draft ordinance before it is offered for a vote at the town meeting in June.