NORTH SMITHFIELD – The winds have died down on all fronts since the new Town Council has taken its place at the head of the table.
Months of jumping hurdles and gaining approvals for an almost-500-foot wind turbine in Dowling Village’s Phase IV may have been a wasted effort, as no one has come forward to the new council with the proposal yet, Town Council President Edward Yazbak indicated this week.
“What I understand is that there was never an agreement between the parties out there,” he said. “It seems like it kind of fell by the wayside, and as far as I know, it’s a dead issue.”
The Breeze reported last month that there was some in-fighting among the investors – Dowling Village Wind and RAM Investments – that might have thrown the deal off the table completely. The previous council, which aimed to purchase open space in the Dowling Village mixed-use development for the turbine, left its spot at the bargaining table for the current council to take over if the investors ever reached the agreement.
Some town officials at the time said investors were worried about the intentions of a new council, which could have overturned the deal even if the previous council had approved it.
This wouldn’t be the first time an incoming council has reversed a land deal. In 2008, the North Smithfield Town Council agreed to purchase the Gold property, off Mattity Road, for $2.8 million. Almost immediately, newly elected council members rescinded the purchase, saying not enough effort had been made to negotiate the purchase price down in a declining economy. Former councilor Paul Leclerc told The Breeze in an interview this summer that when the Gold family tried to sell its 154-acre property, the $2.8 million asking price was to be paid out of the town’s $3-million open space bond in 2008, money approved to be spent by voters in 2006, but the property was appraised for almost $1 million less than the asking price.
Previous to the Nov. 2 elections, council candidates expressed they were open to the idea of discussing the wind turbine with more information, but no one has officially approached the council so far.
About a month ago, Al Brien, of RAM investments, said the town planner had contacted him asking him if he would be in favor of keeping that land as open space instead. Brien told The Breeze he said, “Of course I would.”
Phase IV of the Dowling Village project was originally slated for a 76-unit condominium complex. Two months ago, the town began discussing purchasing open space in the Dowling Village mixed-use development for the turbine, essentially negotiating two purchase-and-sales agreements so the town and the North Smithfield Land Trust could jointly preserve 40 acres adjacent to the southeast corner of Booth Pond. The town would separately own 2.5 acres of land for the turbine and lease it to the developers.
The $7-million turbine would supply electricity to tenants of Dowling Village by creating power in the range of 3 million to 4 million kilowatt hours per year.
Under the turbine plan, the town would pay for the 40 acres of open space by tapping $525,000 from an already-approved open space bond. That would be repaid over 20 years using a portion of the $40,000-per-year lease payments from the developer to the town, passed through RAM Investments.
Before the previous Town Council dissipated, town officials said DV Wind asked RAM for a last-minute 50 percent match for road construction that’s part of the project so they have some kind of reimbursement if the new Town Council decides the deal is not something it wants to pursue.
RAM did not agree to it, former councilor Steven Biron told The Breeze. And, he added, DV Wind has until Dec. 31 to start clearing trees for road construction near the turbine or it will not be eligible for tax credits. It was unclear if the deal could still go through if DV Wind goes past that deadline.
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