SAVOY – It has been two years in the making, but Planning Board Chairman Jamie Reinhardt said that the town might be ready in “four or five months” to vote on the bylaws that will make – or break – a wind project that proposes to put five 420-foot, 2.5-megawatt turbines on West Hill.
About 30 residents attended a hearing Thursday night at the firehouse and gave input on an early draft of the bylaws.
“We’re going to take comments and amend the bylaws as we see necessary,” Reinhardt told the group. “The amendments will be made in response to your comments tonight.”
He also said that the current draft was based on a template from the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.
‘We want to be proactive’
“Hancock, Florida and Monroe have already drafted bylaws,” he said. “Hawley adopted bylaws in the summer of 2005. Windsor adopted last summer. We want to be proactive.”
The bylaws, although “not written in stone,” would set restrictions on the height, color, placement, lighting and noise restrictions on commercial wind turbines. But Reinhardt and the rest of the Planning Board have yet to figure out who – or what – will be responsible if anything goes wrong with the turbines.
“What mechanism will be in place to receive, review and resolve complaints?” Reinhardt asked the group. “Will it be a Selectmen(‘s) board? A new committee? We haven’t come to grips with that yet.”
A two-thirds majority vote from the residents will be needed for the bylaw to be approved.
Reinhardt also said he wants to coordinate a trip to another wind power site so that he and other residents can see the turbines in action.
However, the 420-foot Clipper turbines proposed by Minuteman Wind LLC, which dwarf the 350-foot restriction in the current draft of the bylaw, are a new, supersize style that cannot be found in the region.
The first project to use Clipper’s new turbines is in production at a wind power site in Lackawanna, N.Y., a suburb just south of Buffalo. Completion is expected by the end of the year.
“We’ll have to drive a good six hours to see them,” Reinhardt said.
Other residents find the new turbines to be a contradiction in terms.
“I thought when things advance technologically, they’re supposed to get smaller,” said town resident Preston McClanahan. “Apparently, this is not the case with wind turbines. These things are gigantic monsters.”
According to Steven Weisman of Minuteman Wind, the taller turbines are quickly becoming the production standard.
“They’re an advancement in technology,” he said in a phone conversation yesterday.
Excluding new turbines
Proponents of wind power claim the bylaw’s current height restriction prohibits these new turbines.
“This bylaw has been crafted to exclude them,” said Tim Herman of Adams, a former Savoy resident.
“That’s not the case,” Reinhardt countered. “We’re trying to maintain distance from the (proposed Minuteman project).”
Reinhardt explained that Savoy’s current bylaw draft is based on what the surrounding towns chose to implement.
“Technology changes,” he added.
Barbara Clement, another resident, expressed her fears that a wind project in Savoy will cause local property values to fall and the town’s surfeit of “natural beauty” to be jeopardized.
“What I’m hearing isn’t an opposition to science,” Herman countered. “The objections I’m hearing are personal. We have to cut our dependence on fossil fuel. There will be a time when we don’t have petroleum-based electrical power.”
“I don’t think windmills look that bad,” said Alice Liebenow of Savoy. “I saw the turbines in (Searsburg) Vermont. If I didn’t like the looks of them, I wouldn’t look.”
Reinhardt noted that the second hearing, planned for Thursday, is no longer necessary because all of the residents who wished to contribute to the bylaw drafting process have had their say.
Is Minuteman Wind tired of waiting for the town to make a decision? Apparently not.
“This is a typical process,” Weisman said after the meeting. “It’s important that the town goes through it. Our planning takes a lot of time, too.”
By Jessica Willis, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Jessica Willis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (413) 664-4995.
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