BRIMFIELD – After hearing three hours of condemnation from residents about a wind farm for West Mountain, selectmen unanimously rejected a $30,000 payment offer from the developer to study the project, prompting the leader of the opposition to declare the fight over.
Virginia Irvine, who organized No Brimfield Wind, said she believes the involvement of town residents and the research they were able to do and share over the Internet in just the past few months stopped selectmen from entering an initial agreement that would have brought the $30,000 payment for research from First Wind, the Boston-based company that proposed building 10 turbines on the West Mountain.
“Today we stopped First Wind,” Irvine said. “I don’t think First Wind will stay here in this town.
Other opponents were more cautious and warned that a bill now pending in the Legislature and supported by Gov. Deval L. Patrick could remove a municipality’s authority to block a wind farm.
Without such a law, Brimfield would need to enact a zoning bylaw change to allow this use of land, which is considered industrial. Opponents of the wind farm have expressed confidence in being able to block the two-thirds vote that would be needed for such a bylaw change.
After the vote, company spokesman John Lamontagne said, “We are going to regroup and determine what our next steps are. Any studies that occur now, they will have to pay for as a town.”
Shortly before the vote Lamontagne had said, “The opponents of the project are very well organized, to their credit, and very vocal. After tonight’s vote we will review the situation. This is very early in the process.”
When the meeting opened at 6:30 p.m., Selectmen Thomas C. Marino and Steven R. Fleshman said they were inclined to sign a memorandum of understanding with First Wind and accept the company’s offer of $30,000 that the town could use to investigate the economics, engineering, environmental and other aspects of the project.
Marino and Fleshman said before and after the meeting that they were neutral on whether to support the project. But they said also said they were initially in favor of taking the First Wind money because no funding would otherwise be available for the town to perform the research needed to educate town officials and residents on the particulars of the wind turbine project.
Explaining his vote, Marino said, “We had some 200 people here and the public sentiment is that they don’t want anything to be done (to further the project).”
Selectman Diane M. Panaccione, who opposes the installation of wind turbines on West Mountain said, “I am happy with the citizen turnout at our meeting tonight.”
More than 40 spoke against the project during the meeting.
They cited concerns about the noise and potential health effects of the turbines, especially for the 79 homes located within a quarter of a mile of the proposed site.
Dr. Elizabeth Smola, who reminded those in attendance that she has provided medical care to many of them and their children, said turbines nearby “can lead to specific health problems.”
“They expect us to sit and take it,” Smola said. “But they won’t get that from the residents of Brimfield.”
Several people also talked about the permanent change that 443-foot high turbines would bring to the landscape for this small, hilly rural town, and the prospects that hiking toward Steerage Rock and other parts of West Mountain could be curtailed.
There were also concerns raised about the financial health of First Wind, which has built wind farms to generate electricity in other states in an industry where initial investments are heavy.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding