At two upcoming hearings, Savoy residents will have the opportunity to give their input on the town’s wind turbine bylaws.
The decisions will make or break a wind turbine project proposed by Minuteman Wind of Waltham.
The Planning Board last night announced that the meetings would be from 7 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 26 and Nov. 2 at the fire house on Main Road in Savoy.
According to Planning Board Chairman Jamie Reinhardt, the board wanted to make sure that every resident had a few minutes to comment on the bylaws, which will make restrictions on a turbine’s size, noise-level and lighting.
Reinhardt said the hearings are not specific to Minuteman’s controversial project that proposed to put five 2.5 megawatt turbines on West Hill. The project was slated to be operational in 2008.
“We won’t be (at the hearing) to answer questions relative to the pending project,” he emphatically told the handful of Savoy residents who attended last night’s meeting. “These hearings will be to find out what would be palatable to the community. They will be informative meetings. We won’t be voting on this yet. Nothing is written in stone.”
Reinhardt said that it was too soon to say when they town would be ready to vote on bylaws that would make a wind turbine project feasible.
The prospect of a wind project in Savoy has polarized the town’s residents. There are those who see the mammoth turbines as a menace to the environment, their property values, and to their peace of mind, and still others see wind energy as a welcome tax break and a way to stem the consumption of fossil fuel.
Savoy currently does not have an official bylaw in place to restrict wind turbines, but neighboring towns such as Williamstown, New Ashford and Hawley do, “and we were compelled to do the same,” Reinhardt said. “It’s a prudent measure.”
The Planning Board started the process of formulating its own wind project bylaws in 2004, and the most current draft of the bylaw is dated July 26 of this year.
Reinhardt said Florida and Monroe have bylaws that allow a turbine to be a maximum of 350 feet from base to the tip of the blade at its highest point, and Savoy will be proposing a 350 foot limit as well.
However, the Minuteman project had publicly proposed five 2.5 megawatt turbines that will be 420 feet at the highest blade tip.
Minuteman Wind wrote, in an open letter to the town and the Planning Board, that such a size restriction “does not make turbines smaller but instead is a veto of wind turbines in the guise of permitting them.”
“This is where the amendment process comes in,” Reinhardt said, and added that after the hearings, the Planning Board will edit the bylaws based on suggestions made by the residents, and a final draft will be presented to the town for a vote. A two-thirds majority will be needed for approval.
By Jessica Willis, Berkshire Eagle Staff
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