There will be no second showdown between opponents in the Town’s wind turbine development debate.
The Planning Board voted 4-1 during a special meeting on Wednesday night to rescind its promise to bring forth a bylaw that, if approved at a special town meeting, would have replaced the wind turbine regulating bylaw townspeople adopted on Jan. 3. in a 155-56 vote.
“We don’t want to aggravate the town,” said Thomas Sadin, who resigned from his position on the Planning Board during Wednesday’s meeting. “If there had been a low turnout at the vote last week, it might have been a whole different story. But, a significant portion of the town showed up and we have to take that seriously.”
Wednesday’s meeting was advertised to the public but no one attended, Sadin said. Planning Board Chairman Jamie Reinhardt declined to comment about Wednesday’s vote because he said he believed the Transcript has not provided balanced coverage of the wind turbine debates. He did say the board would miss Sadin’s presence.
“Now we have a vacancy that’s very difficult to fill,” Reinhardt said.
Sadin had served on the Planning Board nearly four years and had been planning to resign months ago, he said, in part to focus on his work at home as a sheep and hay farmer at the Good Shepherd Farm. He said he remained to see the town decide on a wind turbine bylaw at the request of Planning Board Chairman Jamie Reinhardt.
While the board put the finishing touches on the bylaw it had spent nearly three years writing, however, Savoy landowner Harold “Butch” Malloy wrote his own, based on a state-designed template for turbine bylaws. Malloy finished his before the board members finished theirs, and the town adopted Malloy’s bylaw, with some amendments, last Thursday.
At that time, the Planning Board said it would still put its bylaw to a vote in the coming weeks, in case the town decided it wanted to adopt its bylaw to supersede Malloy’s.
Developer Minuteman Wind LLC of Framingham 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. They have proposed making a payment in lieu of taxes to the town of about $220,000 a year, which would be subject to negotiation.
The board had said its bylaw would have done more to protect the interests of Savoy’s residents than Malloy’s, in part because it would have placed more detailed restrictions on the height and the potential noise and light pollution of turbines. On Wednesday, however, the board changed its mind.
“What frustrates all of us on the board, even though I can’t really speak for the board anymore, is when someone can come forth in 10 weeks or so with a bylaw based on a flimsy state model and push that through without giving us a chance to present ours,” Sadin said.
He said the board had put considerable effort into collecting comments from those who were for or against allowing wind turbine development in Savoy. Most of those who stepped forward to comment were against, Sadin said, which influenced how the board wrote its bylaw.
He said he did not like to see how much the wind turbine discussions divided the town and looked forward to friendships healing again. Personally, he said he is not wholly against developers building turbines in Savoy.
“I’m more pro than anti, but I maintained neutrality when I made decisions on the Planning Board,” Sadin said. “Let’s face it, we’ve got to do something at some point because we can’t continue to rely on fossil fuels. Wind energy is part of a solution, not the silver bullet. But, we’ve got to start somewhere. I guess that’s the attitude that I might have.”
Selectman Chairman John Tynan said he appreciated Sadin’s work on the Planning Board.
“I’m sorry to see him go. He’s a good man,” Tynan said.
He said the Planning Board’s decision to not go forward with its bylaw seemed to make sense. Selectman Joseph Bettis agreed.
“When people voted on the bylaw last week, they knew that there were two bylaws on the table. Seeing how the vote went, I think people got what they wanted,” Bettis said.
Malloy said he looked forward to regaining some friendships and helping Savoy get the best wind farm it can.
“I had always hoped Jamie would honor the voice of the townspeople and I respect him for pulling back,” Malloy said. “I’ll do everything we can to make sure the developer we’re working with does everything to make the project absolutely perfect, flawless for the people of Savoy.”
By Bonnie Obremski, North Adams Transcript
Friday, January 11
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