SAVOY – Voters took under five minutes Tuesday night to decide to give the Selectmen permission to begin negotiations with Minuteman Wind LLC on a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) program for the proposed wind farm on West Hill.
The special town meeting held at Town Hall attracted 10 residents – just enough for a quorum – and the vote to allow the negotiations to begin was unanimous.
Minuteman plans to install five 400-foot wind turbines on 290 acres of West Hill at an estimated cost of $35 million. A PILOT program could be more beneficial for the town as opposed to taxing the project as a business because it would ensure the amount of money coming into the town year after year and would avoid the expensive process of re-assessing the project’s value every three years.
“It’s not just us, we will have legal counsel with us the whole time,” Selectmen Chairman Scott Koczela said. “The state regulations state we are allowed to hire outside counsel for this project and the bill will go to Minuteman.”
Koczela said the town has still not decided on a lawyer for the negotiations but will decide before negotiations begin. Koczela also said that just because PILOT negotiations can now begin does not mean the Selectmen have ruled out simply taxing the project like a normal business if that turns out to be more beneficial to the town.
This vote is also not the last time the voters will have their say in how Savoy gets paid by Minuteman, as another vote will be necessary to approve either the PILOT program or regular taxing.
Now that this vote has passed, Minuteman president Donald S. McCauley said the company hopes to file with the Conservation Commission next week to start the final local approval process of the project.
In May, the planning board approved Minuteman’s special permit after four years spent building a wind turbine bylaw and debating the project. The planning board did have a few special conditions that it attached to the special permit including the need for a $2 million bond for the decommissioning of the site in the future, a newsletter to update residents about the construction process and the need to shut down the turbines if a malfunction is not fixed within 48 hours.
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