BREWSTER – It took two hours of testimony both for and against the municipal wind project, before voters finally had their say and they said no, even if it was by the narrowest of margins.
Under the town’s municipal wind bylaw, the planning board is supposed to be the decider in granting a special permit for municipal wind turbines. But earlier this winter, the planning board deadlocked on a motion to deny the project a permit.
Selectmen could have appealed what is effectively a denial in court. They chose instead to submit an article at town meeting that removed the requirement for a special permit for municipal turbines in the town’s lone industrial zone.
Of the 1,136 people who voted on the article, 725 voted in the affirmative, but the measure failed by 25 votes to attain the required two-thirds majority.
And so it looks like the Cape & Vineyard Electric Cooperative, which proposed the twin turbines and would have funded their construction and operation, will likely not see their first successful wind power project after almost four years of trying and a number of failed attempts that cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Brewster, in turn, lost out on an opportunity for a new source of revenues as CVEC had proposed paying the town an estimated $100,000 a year for a lease as well as discounted municipal power.
While some decried the selectmen’s article as an end-run around due process, time was not on their side, explained Town Administrator Charles Sumner.
A court appeal would have taken over a year and town officials feared other proposed projects in other towns could use up the limited amount of power that can receive favorable reimbursements from NStar.
But resident Mitch Relin posited that the vote had less to do with wind turbines and more to do with trust.
Board of selectmen chairman Ed Lewis pointed out that every committee and commission in town voted unanimously to support the project, up to the planning board’s vote.
“This was not a power move, or sneaky. Selectmen believe the Brewster voters deserve the right to be heard,” Lewis said.
But for others, issues of due process took a back seat to the bigger picture – the toll that conventional power generation was taking on the environment.
“Every decision to turn down a windmill is one to allow more coal fumes to go up smokestacks and descend on us. Impacts from this are far worse than the impacts of any windmill,” said Liam Mahony.
Still, others worried about the health effects of noise and shadows from the big blades, known as flicker.
“Our property will be devalued, our property is in the flicker zone,” Rick Judd said.
Voters passed the elementary school budget override, Nauset Regional School budget override, and a town operating budget override.
Together they totaled nearly $800,000, an amount that will also have to pass at the town election on May 17.
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