FRAMINGHAM – The Zoning Board of Appeals this week closed its hearing on Staples Inc.’s appeal to build a wind turbine that would be almost triple the town’s 80-foot height limit, eyeing a vote later this month.
Peter Barbieri, attorney for the office supply giant, again rejected the request from Town Meeting member Tom O’Neil, chairman of the Standing Committee on Planning and Zoning, to withdraw the appeal until the town adopts a bylaw dealing with wind turbines, saying the project has been in the works too long.
O’Neil went on say that, because wind turbines are not enumerated as an allowed use in the town’s zoning bylaw, it means they can’t be built. Board member Steve Meltzer disputed that rationale, saying it’s not true at all.
“If something is not prohibited, that means it’s allowed, not the other way around,” said Meltzer.
The zoning board faces a Feb. 29 deadline on the appeal of the denial by Building Commissioner Michael Foley, based only on the height of the proposed turbine, which would go on part of the land behind Staples’ headquarters.
Board members will begin their deliberations Feb. 26.
Barbieri noted that cell phone companies will not be allowed to attach transmitters to the turbine, which would only be built after Staples tests the wind power in the area during a six-month trial run with a wind mast.
Zoning board Chairman Phil Ottaviani said Staples has agreed to share its findings with town officials in anticipation of the possibility they will erect a similar structure on top of the Memorial Building if it’s worth it.
Supporters dismissed Town Meeting member Kathie McCarthy’s concerns about flicker, saying the blades won’t spin fast enough to trigger seizures.
“I see this as a pilot project,” said Town Meeting member William LaBarge, saying he’s unsure there will be enough wind to support Staples’ plan. “I say we should let science be the killer of this project, not politics.”
Town Meeting member Dawn Harkness, chairwoman of the Greener Framingham Committee, agreed.
“Staples is willing to take on a certain financial risk with this proposal and we get to benefit from this research,” she said. “Framingham will save money by letting them do all the research.
“It could be perceived as onerous to make them wait (for a zoning bylaw),” said Harkness, adding that Framingham officials should move quickly to ensure Staples’ plan goes forward.
Barbieri noted that, in 1982, the zoning board granted a variance that allowed a pair of small turbines, well below the town’s height limit, to be constructed behind a home on Winch Street.
Board member Karl Thober, a member of the planning and zoning standing committee, said those turbines aren’t comparable to the one Staples hopes to build on Crossing Boulevard.
“It’s an entirely different scale,” said Thober. “It would be a little better to slow down. I’m not against this, but it’s not at all clear that this is the proper time to approve it.”
By Craig MacCormack
Daily News Staff
14 February 2008
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