WOODSTOCK – The Appeals Board voted 2-1 Thursday night to reject an appeal of the site plan for a wind turbine project on Spruce Mountain.
Voting against the appeal were Stephen Newkirk and Ruth Feeney; for was Jim Chandler.
Residents have a 30 days after approval to appeal a permit. At issue was when the permit was actually approved.
The meeting began with a 45-minute executive session, as the Appeals Board discussed the 30-day window with the town’s attorney, Lee Bragg. “Once it’s established when the appeal period ended, nothing changes that,” Bragg explained after the executive session.
Nate Snow of Woodstock who filed the appeal contended that approval was granted on Oct. 19. He said that in light of the Appeals Board’s decision, he would likely find a lawyer and explore contesting the decision in court.
Gordon Smith, attorney for Patriot Renewables, argued that approval was granted in January, when the Planning Board approved a turbine noise variance louder than the original plans had allowed.
On Oct. 19, Smith and Patriot Renewables representative Todd Preston brought in a copy of the approved Land Use Permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
However, the Planning Board had already voted to approve the site plan on Nov. 17, 2009. Following a public hearing the same night, the board convened and OK’d the site plan, Bragg said.
Smith said the Oct. 19 vote was not relevant to the site plan approval. There was nothing in the original approval requiring a DEP permit, he said, adding that their appearance to show the permit was voluntary.
“The Planning Board offered their opinion that this October 2010 meeting constituted approval,” Smith said. “This was not supported by the ordinance.”
Snow said that when the Planning Board voted to accept the DEP’s findings, the appeals window began then. “Patriot says the Planning Board made an erroneous decision,” Snow said. He said it was up to Patriot to appeal at that time.
“The Planning Board did render a decision in October. Whether or not that decision was erroneous, they did make a decision, and that is the decision I’m appealing,” Snow said.
Andy Novey, project manager on the Spruce Mountain wind project, attended the Appeals Board meeting. He said he was surprised when the appeal came up, because he understood the project was approved with the turbine noise allowance in January.
He said he called Woodstock Town Manager Vern Maxfield once a week in January to see if any appeals had been filed.
The 10-turbine project has proven controversial. The advocacy group Friends of Spruce Mountain has appealed the DEP land use permit as well.
The turbines would produce 2 megawatts each and, according to the DEP permit, would be heard at up to 47 decibels during the day by some Woodstock and Sumner residents.
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