No sooner had the Planning Board completed its draft of the town’s wind facility bylaws Thursday night, then resident Harold “Butch” Malloy announced his intentions to present his own set of bylaws.
But Planning Board members expressed concern that Malloy’s bylaws will be slanted in developer Minuteman Wind’s favor because Malloy owns the 290 acres on West Hill to be used for the proposed five-turbine, 12.5 megawatt project.
Malloy only needs the signatures of 10 registered voters to submit his own bylaws, which he plans to do at the Jan. 30 Selectmen’s meeting.
Planning Board Chairman Jamie Reinhardt said Minuteman has objected to some of the board’s previous bylaw drafts. He said Minuteman even tried to get the board to sign off on “non-descript” bylaws the company had written.
“We reviewed those drafts and discussed them,” Reinhardt said. “Ultimately, we felt they were not in the town’s best interests.”
In an interview Jan. 15, Minuteman Wind LLC President Don McCauley said the company would wait for the town to institute a wind turbine bylaw before moving forward with the project.
A vote on the bylaw is expected to take place in March at the earliest. The bylaw will require a two-thirds majority of all attending voters to pass.
Karen Dobe-Costa, who was sitting on the board unofficially, said she did not understand Minuteman’s rush.
“March isn’t that far away,” said Dobe-Costa, who is expected to be sworn onto the board next week. “The mountain will still be there, the wind will still be there after the vote.”
While Malloy’s bylaws are not available for review yet, Reinhardt said the board’s draft covers a number of issues Minuteman wanted to avoid, including the height of the turbines and presenting the residents with a visual idea of how tall they will be.
Minuteman’s Web site says the height of the turbines will be 420 feet from base to the tip of the blades. That height is preferred because the higher the turbine is, the more consistent the power being generated. This is because taller turbines avoid ground turbulence. The board’s bylaws limit the height of the turbines to 350 feet from base to blade tip. The board members said they expected Minuteman to protest this decision but they set the limit for a reason.
“For the sake of the people living nearby, the (height) couldn’t be left open,” Reinhardt said.
“What’s most appropriate for Savoy is more important than what the industry standard height is,” said Dobe-Costa.
Another bylaw requires Minuteman to do a balloon test – large, brightly colored balloons will be tethered at the site and at the proposed height to give residents an idea of the project’s scale. Reinhardt said having the balloons up will show people what they will be dealing with. He said the height can be deceiving in a two-dimensional artist’s conceptual picture. In a written response to the Planning Board, Minuteman said “(The balloon) is an onerous provision that will not provide the town with any significant, additional information.”
Reinhardt said the board is not trying to target the wind farm for failure but simply trying to make the situation livable for nearby residents. Earlier in the month, the board met to log multiple complaints and concerns from residents involving the project. Complaints ranged from concerns over noise and visual impact to worries over the turbines blades causing “flickering,” a strobe effect, when the sun hits them at dusk and dawn.
“We don’t believe these bylaws will prohibit the building of the turbines,” Reinhardt said. “They are to safeguard the town.”
The bylaw also requires:
* That all turbines be no closer than one and a half times their own height for neighboring buildings.
* That the turbines be located in such a way to minimize the visual and environmental impact to the area.
* That all machinery produce noise no louder that 10 decibels in accordance with the Department of Environmental Protection standards for noise pollution.
* That the turbines be “putty” colored to blend into the landscape.
* That funds be set aside and adjusted over time for inflation, for the facility to be decommissioned no matter what happens to the facility’s current owner.
The Selectmen will review the draft bylaw – and Malloy’s – on Tuesday, Jan. 30, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. Planning Board members said McCauley is expected attend.
By Ryan Hutton, North Adams Transcript
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