AMHERST, N.H. - In an era when going green is all the rage, one man's effort to harness wind energy has run up against a powerful opponent: zoning laws.
Norm Hebert, a computer consultant, is seeking to erect three wind turbines on his property in his suburban subdivision. He says he will not sell the energy created; he will use it to power his house and keep the air cleaner for everyone.
He wants "to make a positive difference," he told town officials at a recent public hearing on the matter.
But town officials say that the zoning code mandates that no building be taller than 35 feet. They have barred him from erecting his turbines, which could reach 121 feet. Hebert argues that his wind turbines are not buildings and therefore not subject to the zoning code's height restrictions. He has appealed the decision to Hillsborough County Superior Court.
Neighbors, too, are up in arms. They say Hebert clear-cut a large swath of his land to make way for the turbines without consulting them. The trees had acted as a noise buffer from nearby highway traffic. Moreover, they say, Hebert's property, wooded and at a relatively low elevation, is unlikely to have the sort of gusts necessary for the wind turbine.
"It's not that we New Hampshire people don't want wind power," said Merrie Kincaid, who lives across the street from Hebert's property. "But, be reasonable."
Hebert did not return phone calls seeking comment.
His attorney, Silas Little, did not return phone calls seeking comment on the neighbors' concerns.
The dispute highlights a key issue facing alternative energy use, wind power specialists say. Few town zoning codes provide specific regulatory guidance for wind turbines. As such, as more residents and commercial energy producers seek to harness wind energy, height and siting issues are expected to surface in towns across the region.
The clash also underscores the challenges New Hampshire faces as it seeks to meet a legislatively enacted goal of producing at least 25 percent of the state's energy from renewable sources by 2025.
With such a mandate, some say, individuals must be empowered to erect wind turbines.
"We are not picking on alternative energy. We are just following the ordinances," said Robert Rowe, vice chairman of the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
By Sarah Schweitzer, Globe Staff