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Landowners who sign leases with First Wind can’t benefit from forestry tax breaks, too, Brimfield assessors rule  

Credit:  John Appleton, The Republican, www.masslive.com 29 November 2010 ~~

BRIMFIELD – The Board of Assessors is seeking to deny property tax reductions to land owners who have Chapter 61 forestry designations on their properties but have also signed leases with First Wind to allow use of their land for a proposed wind farm atop West Mountain.

The board also recently denied by a 3-0 vote a continued tax reduction for a property that had a Chapter 61A agriculture designation because of a similar lease the property owner signed with First Wind for the wind farm project.

The assessors met last week to draft letters to state officials seeking an end to the forestry designations and tax reductions on three parcels owned by Hull Forestlands and the St. Clair and Fitzgibbons families.

Assessors Carolyn Haley, Frank Boffoli and Judith Sessler all agreed to object to both types of tax reductions for the land that owners had placed the forestry and agricultural open space restrictions.

They cited language from Chapter 61 of the state statutes that says property owners enjoying the tax reduction status related to open space designations must notify the assessors and other municipal officials when changes in the use of the property are indicated.

Robert H. St. Clair, one of the property owners, said, “It still has a long way to go.”

Haley said the Board of Assessors has obtained copies of leases for the Hall Forestlands, the Gary St. Clair and Janice Fitzgibbons properties which would allow First Wind Energy LLC, a Boston-based wind energy company, to use the properties for its proposed installation of up to 10 wind turbines for electricity generation.

The leases would allow access for the installation and maintenance of wind turbine generators, towers and related equipment.

The assessors’ meeting was attended by Virginia Irvine, one of the coordinators of No Brimfield Wind, an organization that was put together this year to oppose the installation of wind turbines on top of West Mountain.

Irvine said last month that her organization is focusing attention on opposition to the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act, a piece of legislation aimed at simplifying the siting of wind energy projects in Massachusetts.

Without this law, a wind farm installation in Brimfield would require a zoning bylaw change, something that takes a two-thirds majority vote at a Town Meeting.

Source:  John Appleton, The Republican, www.masslive.com 29 November 2010

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