SHELBURNE FALLS — Last week’s unexpected special permit application for a wind farm has left town officials in a quandary over whether a new, four-turbine facility proposed for Mount Massaemet could legally be put on hold by a wind turbine moratorium that might be approved at May’s annual town meeting.
However, the wind farm application may have to wait until residents decide the outcome of a town meeting article submitted by petition — to ban commercial wind farms altogether.
Public hearing Tuesday at 7
A public hearing on the ban will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Buckland Shelburne Elementary School. The petition seeking the ban was signed by 46 residents.
Meanwhile, some of the petitioners are holding what they say will be a press conference this afternoon, near Bridge and State streets, to explain their reasons for the petition. That meeting will be held at 3 p.m.
The new application for Mount Massaemet Windfarm Inc. arrived before the Planning Board could post a public hearing notice on an article calling for a year-long moratorium on windmills. The planned moratorium was intended to give the board time to develop a comprehensive wind turbine bylaw ahead of proposals.
“The point is, the application was filed before public notification of a moratorium,” Joseph Palmeri, chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, told ZBA members Thursday night. He said “It looks like (the applicant, Frederick “Don” Field) beat the moratorium, but he didn’t beat the citizens’ petition.”
“That said,” Palmeri continued, “I don’t want to set a hearing on this tonight, because we need to send (the application) to the other board and talk to legal counsel.”
Under existing town bylaws, after a special permit application has been filed, the ZBA must give other town boards – including the Planning Board, Conservation Commission, and Board of Health – at least 30 days to review the proposal before a public hearing can be scheduled.
The smaller wind farm proposal calls for four turbines that would produce 1.5 megawatts of electricity each (for a total of 6 megawatts). The new turbines, with blades that are 253 feet in diameter, would be about 338 feet high.
In contrast, the old proposal that was withdrawn last fall called for eight turbines that would have produced 20 megawatts of power and would have been about 488 feet high.
They would be required to have red lights on at night, in accordance with Federal Aviation Administration standards.
An access road would be designed, and the wind farm would be sited to the east of the Shelburne State Forest, on land owned by the Dole and Gould families, with a substation on land owned by Field.
The application says the project, over the 25 years of its life span, would produce about $54,000 in new taxes, or payment in lieu of taxes for the town, based on anticipated revenues from Hoosac Wind Project to the town of Florida.