SAVOY – The president of Minuteman Wind LLC hopes to get a wind-turbine bylaw presented to voters by the annual town meeting May 9.
President Donald S. McCauley Jr. said Tuesday night the company would be “starting the clock” on the process. The town has been working on a bylaw at least since early last summer.
“What we’re really coming to announce is that we’re preparing to start a process to have a citizens’ petition to bring (the state Division of Energy Resources’) model bylaw to the town meeting,” he told Selectmen.
The state division recently released the model bylaw as a guideline for municipalities. The Transcript had incorrectly reported that McCauley and land owner Harold “Butch” Malloy were attending the meeting to present the Selectmen with their own bylaw. Malloy owns the 290 acres on West Hill that would be used for the proposed five-turbine, 12.5-megawatt wind farm.
McMauley said permitting the project is a two-step process. The first step, he said, is the town adopting a bylaw and the second, getting the permit to build. He said if the bylaw step continues into the summer or the fall, the project will have suffered a year’s loss in development.
“We’re anxious to get going,” he said. “We’re anxious to move forward.”
Planning Board Chairman Jamie Reinhardt said the town’s bylaw is between 90 and 95 percent complete and that the board wants to have a public meeting after it is done. He said board members hoped to have a finished draft ready by April.
Reinhardt said the board had reviewed the model bylaw. He said it touched on the same topics as the town’s but it lacked the specifics that would be necessary to make suitable for Savoy.
McCauley agreed it was more generic but said it left more room for discretion than the Planning Board’s drafts.
“It’s more than imagining every requirement that could be thought of and putting it into the bylaw,” he said.
One of the requirements he was speaking of was the height of the turbines. Minuteman’s Web site says the turbines will be 420 feet from the base to the tip of the blades. The state bylaw says it should be 400 feet and Savoy’s latest draft limits it to 350 feet.
McCauley said Minuteman was talking with turbine manufacturers about making an effective, shorter model but that most 350-foot models were not commercially practical. Taller wind turbines are preferred because the more height, the less turbulence it encounters. He said the older, shorter models were usually Army surplus or leftover equipment. He said if the height is limited, Minuteman was considering clustering the turbines closer together to make them more efficient. But, he said, the 350-foot limit is “just not feasible.”
McCauley also said being required to detail the environmental impact was a concern because the state and federal governments have “an extensive process” for that and it should be left to them. He also said the bond stipulation for the decommissioning of the facility was a concern.
“A hotel is not typically asked to secure a bond to secure the hotel in the event it is abandoned,” he said.
Selectmen Joe Bettis said his board has an open mind on the subject and if it had wanted to vote down wind power, board members could have in 1999 when the idea was first presented. He also said a survey sent out by the Planning Board in 2004 was met with a 83 percent positive response in favor of wind power. He encouraged the Planning Board and Minuteman to work together and to submit and respond to each other’s comments on the town’s bylaw.
“Either way this goes, the bylaw can be amended,” he said. “That’s why we appreciate everyone working together.”
By Ryan Hutton, North Adams Transcript
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