A race for windmills – or at least windmill bylaws – is on in Savoy.
Landowner Harold Malloy and the town Planning Board both are proposing zoning bylaw changes that will provide guidelines for wind-powered turbine development – with the board’s yet-to-be-completed proposal having far more stringent guidelines than Malloy’s.
But townspeople will have the opportunity to vote on only one of the proposals – whichever one the Selectmen approve first for a special town meeting, according to Town Clerk Jane Phinney.
Residents can discuss Malloy’s proposal at a public hearing before the Planning Board on Thursday, Oct. 25, at 7 p.m. at the Savoy Firehouse. The Planning Board has publicly announced it will not endorse the proposal. Chairman Jamie Reinhardt said on Friday that the board is consulting with town counsel and the state attorney general on four more details within its own bylaw and might be finished within the next two weeks.
“We’re not looking at it as a race,” Reinhardt said. “Whichever one is ready first, that will be presented to community at a special town meeting – and to pass it requires a two-thirds majority.”
Malloy said it is time to allow Savoy as a whole to decide whether to support the building of wind turbines in town.
“If the people of Savoy want commercial wind power – if they think alternative energy is good idea and want it in town – I think they should be able to have it,” he said.
Malloy owns 290 acres on West Hill, where Minuteman Wind LLC hopes to put a five-turbine, 12.5 megawatt wind farm. His proposed bylaw stipulates that turbine towers may not exceed 425 feet and that developers need a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals before building. Also, each turbine would have to be built at a distance of at least one times the height of the tower from any adjacent property boundary and a distance of at least 1.5 times the height of the facility from any structure or building occupied by people.
Malloy said he worded his bylaw using a template provided by the state. He said similarly written bylaws have passed a vote in other towns, such as Fairhaven and Chester.
Reinhardt said it might be difficult for the Zoning Board to issue special permits using the guidelines in Malloy’s proposal because they might not be adequate. He said the Planning Board’s proposed bylaw has more stringent height restrictions, for example, which take into account the interests of townspeople.
“The Planning Board has been researching the topic of wind energy facilities and … has learned a great deal on this topic … resulting from … data provided by concerned citizens, site visits to such facilities and open town meetings,” Reinhardt wrote in a Sept. 5 letter to Malloy, which stated that the board would not endorse his proposed bylaw.
Reinhardt said if no new bylaw is passed, a building code that restricts structures taller than 35 feet in town would stand, which would prevent the construction of wind turbines.
Town Clerk Phinney said she was fairly certain that Malloy’s proposal, if put to a vote, would fail.
“As town clerk, I get a lot of feedback while in my office, and the general attitude is mostly against the Malloy amendment,” she said. “I won’t say it’s 100 percent, but I’d say 2 to 1 – and mostly because people don’t like things changed very much.”
Malloy said he got tired of waiting for the Planning Board to put the matter to a vote, and that’s when he decided to propose a bylaw himself. He submitted his proposal with 45 signatures to Town Hall on Aug. 9.
“They were working on it for years, and it was still going nowhere,” Malloy said of the Planning Board. “We have a developer interested in beginning a commercial wind project, but they won’t come forward without a bylaw.”
He added, “I hope that if the people in Savoy endorse it. If they vote bylaw in, I would hope the Planning Board would honor the decision of the townspeople and not try to inflict its own agenda. That’s what democracy’s all about – right?”
By Bonnie Obremski
13 October 2007
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