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Windmill plan up in the air

DEDHAM – The town is re-evaluating its plans to utilize renewable energy following the rejection last week of a proposal to install a wind turbine at Fairbanks Park by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Town Administrator William Keegan yesterday said he would continue to look for ways to save money using wind power and would investigate whether an altered Fairbanks Park windmill plan could work, despite neighborhood opposition.

“I am disappointed that further consideration wasn’t given to the overall impact of the project to the town,” Keegan said. “We are going to continue to look at environmentally friendly ways to save money for the community.”

The windmill, which was designed to be 90-feet tall, required a permit from the ZBA because it exceeded the height allowed by town bylaws by five feet. The board voted 3-2 in favor of a permit for the windmill, but four favorable votes were required for passage.

Keegan said he would investigate the possibility of reducing the height of the windmill by five feet, eliminating the need for ZBA approval. If the height is not changed, the town must wait two years before it again can bring the plan before the ZBA.

Keegan also said the town would continue to look at other locations where wind power could be employed in Dedham.

“I believe it was an environmentally friendly approach,” Keegan said. “These changes are important and we need to continue to work on them.”

Park and Recreation Commission Chairman Donald Reisner, who spearheaded the windmill project for the town, said cutting five feet off the design “is an option,” but didn’t know if it was technically feasible.

Reisner has also said he would like to appeal the ZBA ruling on the grounds the reasons given for the denial went beyond issues related to the height of the turbine.

After the meeting, Zoning Board Chairman John Kearney said he voted against the windmill proposal because of neighborhood opposition and insufficient economic benefit to the town.

This week Kearney said he could not comment on Reisner’s assertions the board went too far in its ruling because of the potential for a lawsuit. He said the reasons would be spelled out in the board’s written decision.

The ZBA has 100 days from the date of the hearing to file its written decision. Appeals may be filed in court 20 days after the filing of the decision, said Town Clerk Paul Munchbach.

Residents living near Fairbanks Park opposed installation of the wind turbine throughout the permitting process because of concerns it would create noise and a visual disturbance.

Keegan said he would discuss the prospect of appealing the ZBA decision, which would pit two town entities against one another, with the Board of Selectman and Park and Recreation Commission.

The town secured $57,500 from Town Meeting in April to purchase and install the windmill, estimated to cost $60,000 and designed to power the athletic field lights at Fairbanks Park.

The town had estimated it will receive $42,000 in state renewable energy grants for the project and save around $1,900 annually in electricity costs.

The Park and Recreation Commission is scheduled to meet Monday at 7 p.m. to discuss a possible appeal of the ZBA decision, among other issues.

By Patrick Anderson

The Daily News Transcript

12 October 2007