Savoy has leapt closer to welcoming wind turbine development on its ridgelines.
Voters who attended last night’s special town meeting decided by secret ballot 155-56 to adopt a turbine-regulating bylaw in an approval that satisfied the required two-thirds majority.
“Congratulations to us all,” Harold “Butch” Malloy said, beaming as neighbors congratulated him on his efforts to pass the bylaw, which he wrote using a state-designed template, though it was modified by the Selectmen on the meeting floor.
Townspeople nearly unanimously agreed with the Selectmen to increase the distance between each turbine and any other occupied structure from 1.5 times the height of a turbine to 2.5. Residents also agreed with the Selectmen’s decision to expand the surety section of the bylaw that outlines what would happen if a developer fails to complete a project or abandons it.
Additionally, the Selectmen made a change that increased the area a developer needs to map on a site plan from a 500-foot radius from a proposed wind farm to 1,500 feet. Other amendments corrected spelling errors in Malloy’s bylaw.
“Now we’ll begin working on our special permit application,” said Don McCauley, president of Minuteman Wind LLC of Framingham, smiling. He added that he might have found a way to cut the turbine delivery time down from the estimated three years he had earlier reported to the Selectmen.
Minuteman intends to build a five-turbine, 12.5-megawatt wind farm on 290 acres of Malloy’s land on West Hill at a cost of about $22 million. It has proposed making a payment in lieu of taxes to the town of about $220,000 per year, which would be subject to negotiation.
Technically, the bylaw is not official until the state attorney general’s office approves the document. State officials have 90 days to review the bylaw. Selectman Joseph Bettis Jr. said the bylaw will become official if the review period ends without comment from the state.
“I would like to thank every single person in the town of Savoy for coming out here in this cold weather,” said Diane Malloy, Butch Malloy’s wife, as her husband shook hands and embraced his supporters. Children scampered through the fire station, spinning pinwheels one parent had brought for them.
Few of the people opposed to adopting the bylaw waited to learn the results of the vote. About half of the 211 voters and their children left after casting their ballots.
Only a handful of people spoke during the meeting’s discussion period. Most asked what the Planning Board intends to do with its wind turbine bylaw, which the board has said will protect the interests of residents better than Malloy’s.
Planning Board Chairman Jamie Reinhardt said he hoped to put the board’s bylaw to a vote at another special town meeting some time in the next four weeks. The vote would specify that the board’s bylaw would supersede Malloy’s if passed. The board’s bylaw would not allow Minuteman’s project to go forward because the company plans to build turbines taller than that bylaw’s 300-foot limit.
One person asked what would happen if Minuteman submits its application under Malloy’s bylaw only to have the Planning Board’s bylaw pass shortly afterward. The town’s attorney said he did not know.
Other residents asked for clarification about the payment in lieu of taxes proposition. The Selectmen explained, saying that the negotiated amount would increase annually to accommodate rises in the cost of living.
The meeting ended after about an hour and a half when the firemen raised the garage doors and evicted the remaining celebrants to make way for trucks parked outside in below-freezing temperatures.
Malloy, shielded by only a sweater, kept his grin.
“I’m going home, hanging out with my kids and I’m finally going to relax a little,” he said. “Congratulations to the people of Savoy for supporting renewable energy. This little town is going to make a huge difference.”
By Bonnie Obremski
North Adams Transcript
4 January 2008
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