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No-wind group eyes state rules

BRIMFIELD – Months after cheering a vote by the Board of Selectmen which they saw as an important local step in their fight against the coming of a wind turbine project to West Mountain, opponents of the proposal are monitoring state legislation dealing with siting for such projects.

“Our group says local control means it is two-thirds vote on the Town Meeting floor, not a three-person panel in your town,” said Virginia Irvine, one of the organizers of No Brimfield Wind.

“If a town wants this, that is great and they should have it. If a town does not want it, we do not believe it should come in with some tricky language,” Irvine said.

No Brimfield Wind was formed last year in opposition to a proposal by the Boston-based First Wind to install up to 10 wind turbines on top of West Mountain to generate electricity.

Corporation representatives have said First Wind would wind up paying the town up to $170,000 annually if the turbines were operational plus some additional money for community purposes.

Opponents have voiced concerns about noise, health issues and property values and the impact that the 443-foot-high turbines would have on the scenic beauty of this rural town.

After a Sept. 29 hearing dominated by critics of the project, the Board of Selectmen voted 3-0 to reject the offer of a $30,000 payment from First Wind to help the town study the details of the project.

At the time, Irvine called it a victory and predicted First Wind would be unsuccessful in obtaining a zone change needed for the project because of the unlikelihood of a two-thirds vote at the Town Meeting passing the zone change.

But she and others in No Brimfield Wind have stayed active, watching the state siting legislation and urging legislators to vote against it.

A bill supported by Gov. Deval L. Patrick that would have streamlined the siting process for wind turbines had majority support in both houses of the Legislature last year but died without passage when the session ended in July.

Irvine said No Brimfield Wind is working in conjunction with Green Berkshires and other groups to oppose passage of similar legislation this year.

“We will be involved as the legislation winds its way through. We believe that First Wind should have to get a zone change to put this in and we believe that our town does not support it,” Irvine said.

“If this siting law goes in, the selectmen would appoint a three person panel, and those three people would decided. That is three people. That is not the town,” Irvine said.