EASTHAM – Over the course of two days, the selectmen’s warrant articles proposing private and commercial wind turbine bylaws got blown off the table.
At a March 27 work-session meeting, the board unanimously voted to pull both its articles from the town warrant. Now, a petitioned article will be the only one proposing a wind energy facility bylaw on this year’s warrant.
The dark clouds first threatened the night before, at a March 26 planning board public hearing. After a year of hard work, the town found itself in the same place it was a year ago. It had two competing articles proposing a commercial wind energy facility bylaw. In addition, it had a private wind facility bylaw article.
All three wind turbine bylaws were on the planning board’s public hearing agenda. However, after a close reading of the bylaw, the planning board decided there had been “substantive” changes made since it was published in the newspaper. One such change was increasing the wind facility rating from “not more than 25 kW” to “not more than 60 kW.”
The planning board therefore decided another public hearing would be needed. It discovered further, through Selectman Carol Martin who was in the audience along with fellow selectman Martin McDonald, that the selectmen hadn’t officially approved the changes.
At the start of the March 27 work session meeting, Martin said she was “embarrassed and dismayed” at the misstep of her board the previous night. McDonald took responsibility and apologized for what he said was “unfortunate.” Earlier in the week, McDonald was working on edits to the article in preparation of the March 27 meeting, he said. Somehow, his edited version “ended up on the table of the planning board” and got entered into the March 26 public hearing.
Unfortunately for proponents of the selectmen’s bylaw, the mix-up may have revealed that board’s own indecision about the bylaw.
“If we’re not prepared for this, we’re already defeated,” said selectmen chair Linda Burt.
However, the board still voted 3-1 on a motion by McDonald not to recommend the petitioned article on the warrant. Selectman Carol Martin was the one vote in favor of recommending it, and Selectman Dave Schropfer was absent. The finance committee has already voted 0-8 against recommending the petitioned article.
The petitioned article, submitted by Phillip Hesse, proposes the same bylaw he helped draw up last year while sitting on the ad-hoc committee to develop a commercial wind turbine zoning bylaw. This matter has become controversial in part because of the selectmen’s move in a matter of weeks to challenge months of work done by a group it appointed.
Contrary to some misconception, Town Administrator Sheila Vanderhoef clarified that the selectmen currently have no projects on the table for wind turbines in town and don’t have the ability to go forward with any project without going to Town Meeting.
By Derek Burritt
31 March 2008
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