DARTMOUTH – The state attorney general has upheld zoning changes adopted by Town Meeting, which could scuttle litigation opposing the town’s plans for a $9.5 million wind turbine project off Chase Road.
The zoning revisions, passed in June, eliminate the need for a special permit when a wind turbine is proposed on town property.
The changes allow the town to site a turbine in any zoning district if the project is proposed on town property and complies with setback and clearance requirements.
In January, about 30 neighbors filed suit in Superior Court to block construction of two wind turbines off Chase Road. The neighbors argue in their lawsuit they weren’t properly notified of the project.
Select Board member Joseph L. Michaud and Town Counsel Anthony C. Savastano said Monday they believe the legal ruling effectively kills the neighbors’ lawsuit.
“My understanding is the ruling by the Attorney General’s Office renders the lawsuit moot,” Michaud said.
“It think it’s good news for the community,” Michaud said. “We’ll be able to really move on the wind turbines.”
He said he intends to rely on Savastano’s judgment on how the town should proceed, and Executive Administrator David G. Cressman said the Select Board will discuss the next step next Monday in executive session.
However, the plaintiffs’ attorney, Philip N. Beauregard of New Bedford, said Monday his clients don’t agree with the legal ruling and will fight it.
“It will be contested. The clients believe the windmills don’t belong where they are sited,” he said.
“If the town applies for a building permit under the new bylaw, it will be challenged,” he said. “It’s not the end of the litigation. It’s only the beginning.”
In the attorney general’s decision, dated Sept. 13, Assistant Attorney General Margaret J. Hurley said the town “has reasonably exercised its legitimate zoning power in adopting the amendments.”
Hurley said in order for the Attorney General’s Office to disapprove any portion of a proposed bylaw, it must find “an inconsistency” between the bylaw and state and federal laws.
She also said in the decision that her office received “various communications urging our disapproval of the amendments.”
In January, the Select Board approved a special permit for the two wind turbines and Town Meeting overwhelmingly approved financing for the project.
But neighbors, who had fought the project since its inception, filed litigation in Superior Court in an effort to block it.
Savastano drafted the zoning change, which Town Meeting passed and the Attorney General’s Office has now upheld.
“The challenge to the special permit process was not valid,” he said. “It was just a means to hold up the project for a period of time until it wasn’t financially feasible.”
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