SAVOY – Planning Board Chairman Jamie Reinhardt acknowledged Tuesday that townspeople have been voicing a “good deal of criticism” about the board’s decision to hold its public hearing on the board’s proposed wind-turbine bylaw during Thursday night’s winter storm.
“We asked him to cancel it and he didn’t,” Selectman Chairman John Tynan said. “It was unprofessional.”
Reinhardt made no apologies, however, saying he has exerted extra effort to inform all residents about what happened during the meeting. Delaying the hearing, he said, would have posed an inconvenience to the people who did make it to the fire station on Thursday and would have further delayed the process of adopting or rejecting the proposed bylaw.
“I spent just over two hours at the dump following the hearing and gave out the handouts from the meeting and my notes,” Reinhardt said. “I probably saw more people that way than I ever would have at a meeting.”
The hour-long public hearing, which drew an audience of about 10, collected input on the Planning Board’s bylaw that would allow wind turbine construction in town. Malloy and Selectman Joseph Bettis were among the audience. Four of the five Planning Board members attended.
The proposal is separate from and more restrictive than the bylaw advocated by Harold “Butch” Malloy, who owns 290 acres on West Hill, where Minuteman Wind wants to build five 12.5-megawatt turbines. That bylaw, written by Malloy and based on a state template for such bylaws, will be put to a vote during a special town meeting on Thursday, Jan. 3 at 7 p.m. at the fire station.
Reinhardt said the Planning Board’s proposal will also be put to a special town meeting vote, regardless of whether residents decide to adopt Malloy’s bylaw. The tentative date for that special town meeting is Thursday, Jan. 17. If the town approves the board’s bylaw, it would supersede the previous proposal, if it passes, according to Reinhardt.
He said the public has had an opportunity to comment on a draft of the Planning Board’s bylaw during the past three board meetings. The board filed a final copy of the bylaw on Nov. 20. Reinhardt said the audience on Thursday mainly discussed the rules of making changes to a bylaw on the floor of town meeting.
The papers he distributed during the hearing are hanging in several public places, including the Savoy General Store. The handout uses a chart to show 19 differences between the Planning Board’s proposal and Malloy’s proposal. Among the differences are:
* The board’s bylaw states that no new applications for special permits to build wind turbines would be allowed until two years after the completion of an ongoing project. Malloy’s proposal has no such requirement.
* The board’s bylaw requires turbines to be no taller than 350 feet from the base to the highest point. Malloy’s bylaw seeks turbines up to 425 feet tall.
* Under the board’s proposal, a turbine must sit at a minimum distance of two times its height from any adjacent property and a distance equaling six times its height from any occupied structure. Malloy’s proposal would allow turbines to sit at a distance of one times its height from adjacent properties and 1 1/2 times its height from occupied structures.
* The board’s proposal would require developers to do the following: Outfit turbines with internal fire protection, show the seasonal variations of flicker and shadowing effects, fly a balloon to show the potential visual effect of each turbine, present a construction schedule, identify a project manager to act as a liaison for town officials, perform a noise study, comply with any future noise-restricting laws, obtain a Federal Aviation Administration determination prior to applying for a special permit and to use a licensed applicator when using herbicide on landscaping.
Malloy’s proposal addresses most of those aspects of turbine construction but does not specifically require a developer to present documents to the Zoning Board proving that requirements have been met. Instead, the bylaw states the board must ask for certain information before developers are required to present it.
* The board’s bylaw would allow the turbines to be abandoned for six months before they would need to be dismantled. Malloy’s would allow one year.
* The board’s bylaw states that special permits for wind projects would expire after 20 years. Malloy’s states they would expire after 25 years.
* The board’s bylaw would allow the Zoning Board to hire one or more independent consultants at the applicant’s expense. Malloy has proposed that independent consultants “may” be hired at the developer’s expense, “as appropriate.”
Reinhardt said he has sensed many Savoy residents are confused about which bylaw is which, and he hopes everyone will make a special effort to become informed before voting at either of the special town meetings.
A bylaw requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass.
“We’re determined to present our bylaw and put it to rest,” Reinhardt said. “If both fail, we would believe that it is the opinion of the people of Savoy that wind turbines are not desirable in the town.”
Under its current bylaws, the town does not allow structures higher than 35 feet.
By Bonnie Obremski
19 December 2007
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