NEW ASHFORD – The $61 million time-share condominium project at Snowy Owl Resort is on hold until at least November, Michael J. Brown of Silverleaf Resorts Inc. told the Selectmen at Monday night’s meeting.
However, some of the audience members feared project, which has been delayed because of a Silverleaf lawsuit against Berkshire Wind LLC’s nearby turbine project, might be on hold forever.
“Guys, I’m sorry I don’t have better news to report,” Brown said to the two selectmen, Kevin Flicker and Kelton Burbank. Selectwoman Flavia Mastellone was absent.
“It’s what we expected,” Flicker replied.
Silverleaf, of Dallas, requested a preliminary injunction against wind-turbine project developers Distributed Generation Systems Inc. of Lakewood, Colo., last Oct. 11 because contractors clearing land for the turbines allegedly cut down trees on Silverleaf’s property the previous June.
DisGen agreed to pay a $10,000 settlement fee on the trespassing charge, but the two sides have not reached an agreement on the other complaints – first, that DisGen began turbine construction after a Lanesborough-issued building permit expired, that Lanesborough should not have issued the permit in the first place and that four of the 10 turbines would be close enough to the resort to detract from its value as a “pristine” natural retreat.
“I don’t understand,” Planning Board member Diane Glick said to Brown, who is the director of resort development. “Are you looking for a way out?”
“That’s not our intent one bit,” Brown said, adding that he would not have ultimate say in whether the project would continue as planned following the hearing scheduled in U.S. District Court in Springfield on Nov. 13. He said the original hearing date was in May but it was continued, presumably to give the two companies more time to reach an agreement out of court.
DisGen has been planning to build the 338-foot, 1.5-megawatt wind turbines on Brodie Mountain since at least 1998. The turbines could generate enough electricity to power 5,000 houses. The project straddles the Lanesborough and Hancock line, and borders New Ashford.
Glick asked Brown why Silverleaf filed a complaint against DisGen about the closeness of the proposed turbines last year when the company should have known about the project all along. Silverleaf bought the former Brodie Mountain ski area for $2.6 million in 2004.
“We were not aware of the turbines when we purchased the land,” Brown answered.
Glick appeared incredulous. Audience member Edmond Grosso, chairman of the broadband Internet committee, asked why the closeness of the turbines would detract from activities such as skiing and hiking, which are planned for the development.
“Jiminy Peak has a turbine on top of its mountain,” Grosso said, providing an example.
“It’s a safety issue,” Brown replied. He said the blades of the turbines would be within a hundred feet of recreationalists as opposed to Jiminy Peak, where he said the blades are 1,000 feet away from visitors.
Brown said Silverleaf plans to spend at least $3 million to finish the building contractors laid the foundation for last year, and that the company is still interested in finding a way to complete the entire project.
If the company does abandon the project, it will have to demolish that building according to the town’s bylaws.
Silverleaf analysts say the resort would generate $382,000 in taxes for the town each year, and spend more than $6.7 million a year paying employees and buying local business services. Families living at the resort might spend about $30 million a year.
By Bonnie Obremski
19 June 2007
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