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Series of articles on Fairhaven warrant could pull the plug on wind power

WindWise Fairhaven activists have inserted a series of articles in the May 15 special Town Meeting warrant that, if passed and legal, would effectively derail the proposed wind turbines on Little Bay.

But the proposed articles may not fulfill the requirements for zoning bylaw changes.

Town bylaws require submitting petition bylaw changes to the Planning Board 60 days before Town Meeting. The bylaws also require holding public hearings on proposed zoning bylaw changes with the Planning Board before Town Meeting.

“I don’t know how many of those can be voted on the floor,” said Jeffrey W. Osuch, town executive secretary. Town counsel is reviewing the 10 articles.

The proposed zoning change article would adopt setbacks of at least three times the turbine height to the blade tip, replacing the setbacks in the current bylaw. The proposed changes, based on recommendations from the UMass Renewable Energy Research Laboratory, would mean at least a 1,200-foot buffer. Such changes would kill the project, since the closest home to the proposed turbines is at 750 feet.

The current wind power zoning bylaw, approved by Town Meeting three years ago, requires only a 400-foot buffer.

WindWise scrambled last week to submit the petition articles by the April 27 deadline, collecting almost twice the 100 signatures needed, after selectmen scheduled the Town Meeting four days earlier following another signature petition.

“These articles are designed to give what we consider the minimum safeguards for the project if it goes forward,” said Ken Pottel of WindWise. “We feel that the developer has had his way and through money and implied threats that he might go elsewhere has almost dictated to the town what should be done.”

Articles that don’t seek zoning changes include a sound study with recommended setbacks. The town has already ordered a sound study to be completed by May 12.

Other articles would require wetlands studies, reports from police and fire regarding fires and shadow flicker and a feasibility study of the proposed location.

“We hope that the selectmen are open to our suggestions and do not see this as us against them but that we are acting in the best interests of the town,” Mr. Pottel said.

The WindWise articles will show on the special Town Meeting warrant, which is being posted today, as Articles 3 through 12.

The first article is the original special Town Meeting article proposed by the Board of Selectmen that asks that the town be allowed to lease land it owns near the water treatment facility off Arsene Street for 20 years to CCI Energy, the company that plans to erect two $7 million, 400-foot-tall wind turbines.

Article 2 is a community preservation request that wasn’t included in the May 5 special Town Meeting.

The proposed wind turbines would help power the water treatment plant and other nearby town buildings at a discount rate.

CCI would sell excess electricity to the pool of electricity on the regional grid. The company has estimated the towers could save the town at least $50,000 in electricity costs per year.

Additional revenue to the town will come from the land lease, taxes and royalties, for a total of at least $150,000 a year.

The wind power special Town Meeting is May 15 at 7 p.m. in the Hastings Middle School auditorium.

By Joao Ferreira
Standard-Times staff writer

southcoasttoday.com

1 May 2007