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A power grab in Brewster

The Brewster Board of Selectmen will present an article at the special town meeting on May 2 that will, if passed, negate the hearings, deliberation and vote of a duly charged, duly elected town board. Article 5 is a zoning bylaw amendment that would allow a “by-right” permit for industrial-scale wind turbines at Commerce Park, without requiring a special permit by the planning board. A wind turbine project this complex, with potentially significant impacts on the surrounding community, is precisely why a Special Permit Bylaw was written.

This is less about wind turbines, and more about how town decisions are made.

The planning board studied Cape & Vineyard Electric Cooperative’s application for two 40-story wind turbines at Commerce Park, and found many troubling risks. The deliberation took over three months with over eight hours of testimony, including reports and studies introduced as evidence. The planning board was charged with reviewing the details of the application (making sure the bylaw rules were adhered to), as well as protecting the nature and quality of life of the town and its residents (no matter where in town they live). How can any town meeting provide the time for a full discussion and deliberation of all of the relevant data?

Protecting the bylaws of the special permitting process in our town is crucial. Changes to these bylaws should be based on reason, not anger or frustration.

CVEC chose not to use the normal appeal in court, we are told, because it would “take too long and cost too much money.” An appeal is the right way to go when challenging a board decision, based on the merits. But CVEC, and the selectmen, must have known that the planning board acted completely within its charge. They just did not like the decision.

Citizens of Brewster need to be able to depend on and trust the process for town decisions, based on agreed-upon fair rules.

Changing the rules to get what you want shows, in this case, a disdain for the value of a critical process of local governance, as well as for the voices of a large number of citizens who, in this case, are placed at risk for their health, quality of life, and property values simply because of where they live.

A few selectmen have spoken eloquently about maintaining a sense of “one Brewster” by combining town budgets into one override vote (if the department budgets are passed as presented), instead of separate override votes. Avoid segments of the town competing with each other. Yet if Article 5 is passed (it needs a two-thirds majority), one area of Brewster will be put at risk. This is not the way to encourage a town to be unified, one that works together.

Vote “No” on special town warrant Article 5. If it passes, Brewster residents may be asking themselves what future town decisions will be overruled next?

Mitch Relin is president of Brewster Citizens for Responsible Energy.