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Windmill will stay out of courts

DEDHAM – The town’s plan to put up a wind turbine at Fairbanks Park will not get its day in court, but advocates say the environmentally conscious, money-saving project is far from dead.

Park and Recreation Commission Chairman Donald Reisner announced Monday that to spare Dedham a potentially expensive and messy court battle between town boards, he would not launch a legal challenge to the Zoning Board of Appeals ruling that derailed the windmill this fall.

Instead of seeking a lawsuit, Reisner, the project’s lead proponent, said he would investigate bringing the plan before the ZBA again for another crack at a special permit, a move that would require permission from the Planning Board.

‘‘I got in this to save the town money,’’ Reisner said of the windmill plan, which would have used the device to power ball field lights at Fairbanks Park. ‘‘I still think I could win an appeal, but the cost might be more than it is worth.’’

To bring an appeal on behalf of the town, the Park and Recreation Commission would have needed approval from the Board of Selectmen, something Reisner said he was not sure he could get. Selectmen have not issued a position on an appeal.

‘‘I wasn’t getting a warm, fuzzy feeling,’’ Reisner said about the board’s response to his calls for an appeal this fall.

Officials have said the town would have to pay legal expenses for both sides in a court battle and even a favorable ruling for the windmill could send the matter back to the ZBA.

In April, Town Meeting voters approved $57,000 to purchase and construct a 90-foot-tall windmill at the park. Town bylaws require anyone building a structure taller than 85 feet to get a special permit from the ZBA.

The town first went before the ZBA for a permit in May, but was met by opposition from Fairbanks Park neighbors concerned about noise and the appearance of the structure, which would have blades 22 feet in diameter.

In October, after several hearings on the windmill plan, the ZBA voted 3-2 in favor of issuing a permit, one vote short of the four needed for approval.

The two members voting against the windmill cited the town’s failure to perform a professional, comprehensive study to counter resident’s questions about the viability and appropriateness of locating a turbine at the park.

Monday, Reisner said he maintained his position that the hearings were not conducted fairly and that he should have been given a chance to respond to written questions presented to the ZBA the night of its vote by residents opposed to the project.

Reisner also said statements in the written decision misrepresented the proceedings, especially suggestions that a ‘‘professional’’ study had not been performed.

‘‘I had to call the engineer we used and apologize,’’ Reisner said. ‘‘The guy is a professional and worked for us for free. I think it is an embarrassment to the town that they put that in there.’’

ZBA Chairman Jack Kearney said yesterday the written questions supplied by residents prior to the vote were substantially similar to verbal questions posed in hearings earlier in the summer and that town or park officials had been given every opportunity to respond to them.

‘‘I asked them if they wanted to respond and they didn’t,’’ Kearney said. ‘‘What the (neighborhood representative) did was collect information she had provided before.’’

Kearney said the town was welcome to try to bring the proposal back to the ZBA, but that so called ‘‘repetitive petitions’’ must be substantially different from the original proposal.

Reisner said in addition to looking into another shot at a permit for the wind turbine, he was looking at installing an 84-foot version that would not need ZBA approval.

He said the shorter windmill would likely generate a similar amount of energy, but would be more expensive because it would have to be custom made.

By Patrick Anderson
Staff Writer

The Daily News Transcript

4 December 2007