December 30, 2010

Site plan appeal denied by Woodstock

By Ken Briggs, Advertiser Democrat, 29 December 2010

WOODSTOCK – On December 16, the Woodstock Board of Appeals voted 2-1 that Nate Snow was late in filing his appeal of the Planning Board’s site plan approval of the Spruce Mountain wind turbine project. As a result it took no action on any merits of the appeal. This was only the fifth time in 20 years the board has met.

Snow, who lives in Bethlehem NH but owns property by Shagg Pond in Woodstock, had filed an appeal, alleging conflicts of interest on the part of various Planning Board members and that the Planning Board lacked authority to grant a waiver of the town’s noise ordinance.

Prior to hearing from Snow and Gordon Smith, attorney for project developer Patriot Renewables, the Appeals Board met with town lawyer Lee Bragg in a 45-minute executive session.

Smith had filed essentially a Motion to Dismiss, claiming that regardless of the merits or contents of the appeal the Board of Appeals lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal as it had not been filed in a timely manner. Smith maintained the 30-day appeals time clock began running in November 2009, when the Planning Board signed off on the site plan.

Snow believed that final Planning Board approval was not until October 19, 2010, as the board seemed to believe its approval was dependant on the Department of Environmental Protection’s granting a permit to Patriot Renewables.

Planning Board Chairman Tom Hartford told the appeals Board and the 20 or so people present, that “site plan review process is long and tedious, we are not lawyers and we try not to confuse you, but at the same time we can get confused.”

He added that the Planners felt by January 5, 2010, all requirements had been met but for DEP approval. He said they thought they could not grant a building permit until said approval was granted. “Since then we learned we were wrong.”

Smith pointed out the actual site plan approval contained no “pending DEP approval” or “conditional approval” language as there could have been, indicating that by at least January 5, 2010, Patriot Renewables had met all local requirements. Therefore at the latest, that was when the time for appeal began.

Appeals Board members Ruth Feeney and Stephen Newkirk agreed. Only Chairman Jim Chandler voted to hear the appeal, feeling it had been filed in a timely manner due to the confusion involving all parties.

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