In a 43-page document released by the state Department of Telecommunications and Energy last week, the Princeton Municipal Light Department has learned it is exempt from zoning bylaws when it comes to building and operating its wind-powered electricity-generating facility located off Westminster Road.
PMLD filed a petition with the agency in February 2006, seeking relief from zoning bylaws after four lawsuits were filed against the wind farm project. The light department is replacing the eight 100-foot towers with 40-kilowatt turbines that were originally installed in 1984 with two 230- foot monopoles and 1.5-megawatt turbines that are estimated to provide at least 40 percent of the town’s energy needs.
“DTE exemptions are not given out lightly,” said PMLD manager Jonathan Fitch. “Exemptions are usually sought by projects that have received a lot of opposition and the proponent then seeks an exemption. In our case we went forward with the exemption request with the community behind the project, so we felt we were more likely to receive approval. A lot of criteria must be met.”
Fitch noted the project had obtained the appropriate zoning approvals. “So it was a unique situation for PMLD to ask for an exemption,” he said.
The exemption rules limit the number of lawsuits a project can be subject to, said Fitch. Opponents could utilize the court system to challenge multiple issues to delay a project and “this exemption basically corrects that.”
“The DTE ruling wasn’t required to start construction but some of the appeal processes can be in place for six years, so this protects us against any future lawsuits,” said Fitch.
The exemption ruling found that”[because of] the Town’s support of the project and the moderate local adverse environmental impacts of the project, the Department finds that a comprehensive zoning exemption to construct and operate the proposed facility is in the public interest. Accordingly, the Department grants PMLD’s request for a comprehensive exemption from the Zoning Bylaws of the Town of Princeton for the proposed facility.”
The ruling includes the requirement that PMLD prepare adequate signage warning of the risk of falling ice, and after consultation with the Department of Conservation and Recreation the signage be posted at points of entry to the site and other locations.
Fitch said Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod is buying the same size Fuhrlander turbines as PMLD to provide renewable energy for the base.
“There are others going up in the area so we’ll be able to share information and parts,” said Fitch. “Fuhrlander is becoming more popular in this country now.”
By Phyllis Booth
4 October 2007
The Order dated 9/24/2007 may be accessed at the DTE website: db.state.ma.us
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