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Vote set for wind turbine bylaw proposal

SAVOY – With its own bylaw proposal on the development of wind-powered turbines waiting in the wings, the town will bring a landowner’s proposal to vote next month.

The special town meeting to vote on Harold Malloy’s proposal, which is modeled on a state draft proposal, will be held at the fire station on Thursday, Jan. 3 at 7 p.m. The article will need a 2/3 vote majority to pass.

Meanwhile, the Planning Board continues to push its new bylaw proposal concerning turbine construction and will hold a public hearing to discuss it on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the fire station.

Town officials are putting Mal- loy’s proposal to vote before the Planning Board’s because Malloy submitted his proposal to Town Hall in August, while the Planning Board handed in a final draft of its proposal on Nov. 20.

The Planning Board has contended that its 13-page proposal took longer to put together because it includes more specific regulations than Malloy’s, which are designed to protect the interests of townspeople who enjoy living in a rural setting.

Malloy has said his 11-page proposal is adequate because he followed a state-developed template for writing a wind-turbine construction bylaw. Malloy owns 290 acres on West Hill, where Minuteman Wind LLC hopes to put a five-turbine, 12.5 megawatt wind farm. Both bylaws provide guidelines a developer would have to meet in order to obtain a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

One of the largest differences between the proposals is the height limit of wind turbines and the required distance between a wind turbine and adjacent properties. Malloy’s states turbines shall not exceed 425 feet in height when measured from the ground and blade clearance shall be at least 100 feet. The Planning Board’s proposal limits height to 350 feet with a 20-foot minimum blade clearance.

Malloy’s specifies turbines shall be built at a distance of at least one times the height of the turbine from any adjacent property boundary and at least 1.5 times the height from any other structure. The board’s bylaw states the turbine shall be at a distance measuring at least two times the height of the tower from any other property and at least six times that distance from any other structure.

Most of the Planning Board’s proposal follows the same format as Malloy’s. Differences appear in the wording and length of each legal definition and stipulation. The board’s proposal uses specific terms in a few places where Malloy’s appears vague.

For example, Malloy’s proposal states, “a special permit issued for a commercial wind facility shall be valid for 25 years, unless extended or renewed.” The board’s proposal reads, “the term of the special permit for a wind facility will be 20 years with the final decision by the SPGA (Zoning Board). Subsequent renewal shall not exceed 10 years.”

The Planning Board has voiced its disapproval of Malloy’s proposal. Jaime Reinhardt, Planning Board chairman, has said in the past he was not engaging in a race with Malloy to be the first to push a proposal to a special town meeting. He said he would support the desires of the townspeople if they decide to support commercial wind turbine development in town.

If Malloy’s proposed bylaw is voted down, current laws would prohibit commercial turbine construction. Town officials have been unsure if the Planning Board’s proposal would go before another special town meeting vote in the future if Malloy’s fails. Reinhardt did not return phone calls by press time.

By Bonnie Obremski

North Adams Transcript

12 December 2007