LYMAN, N.H. – In the hope of fending off a potentially costly lawsuit, the Zoning Board of Adjustment voted Thursday to allow UPC Wind Management to withdraw its application for a height variance.
The wind energy company had sought the variance to the town’s 35-foot height ordinance in order to erect a wind-measuring device on Gardner Mountain. This is the second time UPC has withdrawn an application for a variance. It also reneged an application last summer, after a 4-1 preliminary vote by the board to deny the variance.
"I want them to get a message as to how we voted. I don’t want them to continue to withdraw their application and resubmit," said board member Jim Trudell, who cast the only vote to disallow UPC’s withdrawal request. "I think we need to make a stand. This cat-and-mouse thing eventually is going to come to a head, one way or another, and I’d just as soon it comes to a head now."
But other board members said they were concerned that if they denied UPC’s request to withdraw the application, then voted against granting a variance, the international company would involve the town in a costly legal battle.
"Is it going to be worth the money to set a precedent?" Chairman Steve Moscicki asked. "If we have to do this again, if we have to do this 10 times, that’s our job."
UPC project manager Tim Caffyn did not return calls made to his West Burke, Vt., office this week regarding the company’s request to withdraw its application.
Caffyn has said that if UPC was allowed to install a 150-foot device to measure wind, and found conditions favorable on Gardner Mountain, the company would likely erect up to 20 wind turbines up to 320 feet high.
He has also stated publicly that if Lyman residents are opposed to UPC developing a wind farm in town, the company would look elsewhere. Nearly as soon as UPC submitted its first application for a height variance, residents rallied to oppose any wind turbine development on Gardner Mountain.
About 190 of the town’s approximately 280 voters signed a petition last fall opposing allowing UPC a height variance. Residents have said during a series of public hearings that UPC does not meet the five criteria required for a variance.
After the last public hearing on UPC’s application in December, Lyman native Brian Santy submitted three petitioned articles, all related to wind turbines and wind-measuring devices, for this year’s annual town meeting.
The planning board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on those articles, which seek to make Lyman’s zoning ordinances more specific, next Tuesday.
Some ZBA members pointed out Thursday that if UPC does reapply for a variance, it would be under different zoning regulations should the petitioned articles pass.
"I don’t think they’ll come back again," board member Terry Simpson said. "They have to have an open door."
But members also said they are frustrated that UPC has twice withdrawn its application, and many said they wouldn’t be surprised to find UPC knocking on Lyman’s door again.
"I think doing this a second time is ridiculous," said ZBA member Linda Stephens.
"The facts of their case are not going to change," Moscicki said, noting UPC will also need a use variance to erect the device. "If they come back again – three strikes, you’re out."
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