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Milton golf club sues over town plan to build wind turbine

A judge will decide whether the $6.2 million wind turbine the town wants to build will go up as planned on town-owned land next to the Granite Links Golf Club at Quarry Hills.

The private club filed a lawsuit in Norfolk Superior Court earlier this month asking for both a temporary and permanent injunction to stop the windmill. It’s the latest instance of opposition to a wind power project south of Boston: Residents in Hingham recently challenged a turbine proposed for conservation land just over the town line in Cohasset; Plymouth residents, meanwhile, are fighting proposed projects in their neighborhoods.

In legal documents filed in Superior Court, Quarry Hills, the private company that operates Granite Links, says that the 480-foot-tall turbine planned in Milton would interfere with its 27-hole golf operation – destroying the quiet and beautiful views of the Blue Hills – and therefore violate a lease agreement with the town.

The suit also names D & C Construction Co. of Rockland, the company awarded the contract to build the turbine, which still needs approval from the Milton Conservation Commission.

The golf club, which straddles the Quincy-Milton line, was built on land once occupied by granite quarries and the old Milton landfill, with fill imported from Boston’s Big Dig to sculpt the landscape.

Quarry Hills agreed to pay $13 million to cap the landfill in 1998, as part of the 50-year lease with Quincy and Milton to use the publicly owned land.

The company’s lawyer, Jeffery Tocchio, said that besides solving Milton’s landfill problem, Quarry Hills has paid the town $232,000 in rent, and contributed $300,000 toward new town athletic fields as part of its lease arrangement. In return, Quarry Hills was promised the right to run a professional golf course, he said.

“It was in Milton’s economic benefit to enter the agreement with Quarry Hills back in the mid-’90s,’’ Tocchio said. “Now all of a sudden they’re willing to breach that agreement to deal with their financial situation now. An opportunity to put up their own industrial power system is obviously an economic benefit to the town of Milton.

“It’s really unfair. People are trying to vilify [Quarry Hills] as evil developers. The developer in this instance is the town of Milton,’’ he added.

Milton plans to fight the lawsuit, said Marion McEttrick, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen.

“We’re going to be meeting with our attorneys and will prepare our response; we will dispute their claims,’’ she said. “I just think it’s a shame they can’t see their way to supporting the project.’’

Besides reducing the town’s energy costs, the turbine would reduce the town’s carbon footprint, McEttrick said. “It’s very well supported by people in town, and it’s very important for the town,’’ she said.

Town Administrator Kevin Mearn said the town currently spends about $1.7 million on electricity for its public buildings. He said the turbine would produce about $800,000 in electricity at current prices. The town plans to sell the power back to the electric utility NStar, he said.

Figuring in the cost of the turbine – which was subsidized by a $400,000 state grant – “we’d be generating income for the town from day one,’’ Mearn said. “There’s a tremendous financial benefit for the town of Milton.’’

The town first started looking into wind power in 2007. The turbine site – about a half-mile off Randolph Avenue, next to the golf club – was chosen after an independent study found it was the best spot on town-owned land for a wind-powered generator.

Multiple Town Meetings voted to approve and finance the project, and to take back, by eminent domain, a dirt path on the golf course property that provided access to the turbine construction site.

A Special Town Meeting voted in September to change town zoning to allow the wind turbine at the desired location. The zoning change was part of the town’s successful attempt to be named a “green community’’ by the state.

Quarry Hills is challenging the eminent domain claim and has asked the state attorney general’s office to reject the zoning change as illegal “spot zoning,’’ said Tocchio, who also is representing turbine opponents in Hingham.

Mearn said he’s puzzled by the company’s legal actions, saying that he contacted the company to discuss the project at the very start of the process. “In the beginning, they had no problem. It wasn’t until much later that their tone changed,’’ he said.

“The town is well aware that it received a financial benefit’’ from Quarry Hills, Mearn said. “But there’s nothing that says the town can’t have additional financial benefit from other property. And I don’t know how a lessee can say that they want to control property not [located] within a lease. That doesn’t make sense to me.’’