Donald McCauley, Minuteman Wind LLC president, and local landowner Harold Malloy told the Selectmen Tuesday that unless the Planning Board has its wind-power bylaw ready by next week, they would submit one of their own for the town to vote on.
A member of the Planning Board made no apologies for the delay in drafting its bylaw, and the Selectmen, although they would like to see a final version, agreed that the bylaw should be the Planning Board’s responsibility.
The board has been working on its bylaw for over a year in anticipation of the five-turbine, 12.5-megawatt facility to be located on 290 acres of West Hill owned by Malloy.
The project will have suffered a year of delay if the bylaw is not ready by the late summer or early fall, according to McCauley, who wants to build as soon as possible. To prevent further delay, McCauley said, he and Malloy want to submit, via citizens’ petition, a bylaw that is an amalgamation of different guidelines.
“The core of it will be the state model bylaw,” McCauley said referring to a bylaw put out by the state Division of Energy Resources. “It will incorporate the good parts of the Planning Board’s bylaw and the selectboard’s provisions, but the core will be the state model.”
Planning Board Chairman Jamie Reinhardt has previously said the state model is “nondescript” and does not meet the unique needs of the town. McCauley has admitted the state’s model is generic, but he said it leaves “room for discretion.” He has noted that the point of a bylaw is not to include every imaginable restriction.
Present at Tuesday’s weekly meeting was Planning Board member Donald Phinney, who said the board hoped to put the bylaw to a vote by the end of the month after further review.
“It’s been sent to the new town attorney for review, and at the moment, that’s it,” he said. “After that, I’m sure we’ll want to go back over it.”
Selectman Joseph Bettis said the end-of-the-month deadline was unrealistic because after the Planning Board has finished the bylaw, his board needs to review it, and news of the vote needs to be posted weeks in advance. He said the bylaw would have to be ready by the Selectmen’s special meeting on Wednesday, July 11, to come close to having a vote by July 31.
“We don’t really have any power to speed this up,” Bettis told McCauley. “We’re the administrators of the town, but the Planning Board is in charge of this. There’s also some things we want to put in there that weren’t. For instance, we wanted to have a limit of towers per project. We also wanted to have a time span of say, two years between the completion of one project and start of another.”
In the past, Malloy has accused the Planning Board of trying to word the bylaw in such a way that it would make building wind-turbine projects in town virtually impossible. At a board meeting in late April, Malloy brought with him a research fellow from the Renewable Energy Research Laboratory at University of Massachusetts in Amherst who agreed the bylaw was unworkable – calling its wording “death by a thousand cuts.”
Some of the issues the Planning Board are concerned with include shadows cast by the turbines, the throwing of ice from their blades, noise, decommissioning costs and especially height. The board has limited the maximum turbine height at 350 feet from base to blade tip. However, McCauley has insisted any less than 400 feet would be both inefficient and louder. Minuteman’s Web site estimates the height of the West Hill turbines as 420 feet.
Malloy said Tuesday that he hopes the Planning Board’s bylaw is not ready by next week because it would be a waste of time to put to a vote.
“If the town’s bylaw goes forward as is, it will not pass. We have a lot of support in town,” he told the board. “But we need to go forward with this. I’m not saying there’s nothing good in (the town’s bylaw) because there is. But the state didn’t spend three years developing the model and not know what they were doing. This is a great opportunity, and we need to go after it.”
By Ryan Hutton
6 July 2007