A visit from the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission Thursday gave the Planning Board some guidance and new direction for its wind turbine bylaw.
Appearing at the request of the board, Lauren Gaherty, an environmental planner for the commission, had a number of suggestions for the board as it enters what is, members hope, the final months of preparing the bylaw.
Minuteman Wind LLC is proposing to build five 400-foot-tall wind turbines on West Hill. The 12-megawatt project has been in the planning stages for years, but the company has been waiting for the town to come forward with a wind-turbine bylaw before officially submitting its plans.
Gaherty recommended allowing other officials to go over the bylaw because the board has spent three long years putting it together. She suggested having the town hire the commission to sit down with town counsel for a day and thoroughly review the bylaw to prepare it for the state attorney general.
“Bylaws are brutal – they’re not pretty,” she said. “Maybe it’s time to hand it over to someone else with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective.”
Chairman Jamie Reinhardt said the board had been trying to work out all the kinks and get all the opinions it could on the bylaw before handing it over to town counsel. He expressed concern over the cost of hiring the planning commission. Gaherty said organizations like the Highland Community Initiative can provide grant money for such reasons.
“Don’t save on the finances and give yourselves a heart attack,” she said. “Give it to someone else and say, ‘Where can this be fixed.'”
Still, Reinhardt was concerned with the bylaw’s timetable.
“I just don’t know if we have time for the additional hurdles that would entail,” he said. “Where we are now in the process is where I wish we were months ago.”
Board members have previously said they wanted the bylaw ready by this May so the town could vote on it in June.
Gaherty said the board shouldn’t sweat the “nitty-gritty” language of the bylaw as much because town counsel would probably change it anyway. She said wording concerning the color of the turbines, infrasonic sound, the use of herbicides and the stabilization of the site, for example, needed some adjustment.
She advised the board to use town counsel’s services more when adding items to the bylaw because the town may not have the right or the need to include them.
Reinhardt said he wanted to be sure the town’s legal adviser had the necessary experience with commercial building and environmental law because, he said, lawyers often have specialties.
One item Gaherty mentioned as possibly troubling was a requirement for a clerk of the works to act as a liaison and go-between for the wind facility developer and the town. She said her office wasn’t sure what the position would entail and why the town’s building inspector could not perform the job.
Reinhardt responded, “It’s so we have someone with both the time to address concerns the people in town have and the knowledge to understand what’s going on up at the construction site.”
Overall, he said, the meeting was very informative and helped the board get an idea of the people and organizations who can help the process along.
“I think it went very well,” he said afterward. “We’re making headway in preparing the final draft. We need to get through reviewing the selectboard comments, and we need participation by Berkshire Regional Planning and town counsel.”
By Ryan Hutton
North Adams Transcript
21 April 2007
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