Likening it to a town trying to outlaw strip clubs, Harold “Butch” Malloy has accused the Planning Board of wording its wind turbine bylaw in such a way as to prohibit any wind energy facility in town.
Malloy owns 290 acres on West Hill, where Minuteman Wind LLC hopes to put a five-turbine, 12.5 megawatt wind farm. He addressed the board at its Thursday night meeting, which two selectmen also attended.
“I believe you think the best way to prohibit wind power in the town is to make the bylaw unusable, the way towns like Williamstown and Hawley have,” he told the board. “It’s not fair to the people of Savoy. They should have a bylaw they can look at and decide on.”
After three years of working on the bylaw, the Planning Board has not yet given a draft to town ounsel to review.
But Malloy said it was ready enough to be presented to the townspeople for their opinion. He said when the board voted down wind power six years ago, it was going against the town because residents had approved unrestricted wind power by a 121 to 47 vote in 2001. That vote was among 46 other bylaws presented on development and zoning – all of which were decisively ejected.
Chairman Jamie Reinhardt said the board was not being restrictive and it had very specific reasons for not allowing wind power years ago.
“With little information out there, and without any research being done, and in lieu of having a project come to town, it was decided at the time to prohibit commercial wind service,” Reinhardt told Malloy. “We made a list of bylaws we realized we needed and made a hierarchy of ones we wanted to tackle. Our first was wind power, which we’re working on, and next is a bylaw for telecommunications towers.”
Reinhardt insisted the board is not trying to prohibit wind power in its drafting of the new bylaw but is simply looking out for the town’s best interests by making sure all its citizens’ concerns are addressed.
Malloy brought with him Anthony Ellis, a research fellow from the renewable energy research laboratory at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Ellis concurred with Malloy that the bylaw was too limiting.
“The only way you could put a useable wind project in, using these terms, is to have a very large wind farm, and right now, with the exception of West Hill, there’s not room,” Ellis said. “In this part of the country, you have to put them on a ridge line to be efficient, and even if you put them tip to tip, you would still only get 12 turbines on West Hill.”
Citing his experience working with wind turbine developers before, Ellis said the bylaw would be “death by a 1,000 cuts” for operating a practical wind turbine facility. He said it is the kind of bylaw a company looks at then walks away from. He said he was also concerned that the town’s lawyer hadn’t looked at the bylaw yet and some language in it is not clear.
Reinhardt said the board was working on a grant application to pay for the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission to review the bylaw for clarity and legality but was not prepared to just start cutting language.
“Our plan is to continue reviewing the select board’s comments and then send it to Berkshire Regional Planning to compile it into the next draft, which will hopefully be the last,” he said. “Then it can hopefully go to town counsel and then the town by June.”
After a 10-minute discussion, Reinhardt said he had given Malloy enough time to speak and asked him to wrap up his points.
“You are prohibiting wind power, Jamie, and you’re doing it knowingly,” Malloy responded. “Why don’t you just write ‘prohibited’ on the bylaw? Shame on all of you.”
After Malloy left, Selectman John Tynan said it was clear that everyone involved was tired with the process.
“They’re a little frustrated,” he said. “But the Planning Board is going through the motions, and they are the elected board to write the bylaw.”
Selectman Joseph Bettis said his board had submitted the changes it thought should be made to the bylaw but it was up to Planning Board to make the final decision.
“Our goal is not to prevent wind power from coming to Savoy,” Bettis said. “It’s just to make sure the town is fully protected by a workable bylaw.”
Planning Board member Tom Sadin said it was hard to comment on Malloy’s statements while maintaining neutrality on the topic.
“We need to protect the interest of the people in the town who don’t agree with his opinion,” he said, gesturing to a stack of folders containing several dozen letters from residents. “People are concerned, and we’d rather address them before, rather than after.”
By Ryan Hutton
North Adams Transcript
28 April 2007
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