Notwithstanding repeated statements to the contrary by both the Brewster Board of Selectmen and the Cape &Vineyard Electric Cooperative (CVEC), the recent decision by the Brewster Planning Board to deny CVEC a permit to build two 410-foot industrial wind turbines was not “inconclusive,” nor did the voters grant a blanket mandate to Brewster selectmen to install wind turbines at their discretion.
When Brewster citizens voted at town meeting to allow the special-permitting process to go forward, they delegated authority to the planning board to act as their agents, to review CVEC’s application for a special permit and to evaluate the proposal’s merits in accordance with Brewster’s bylaws.
The planning board conducted public hearings; considered testimony from technical experts and citizens; reviewed thousands of pages of documents; and ultimately declined to provide a permit to a deeply flawed project.
Refusing to take no for an answer, the Brewster selectmen and CVEC have pursued extraordinary and desperate measures to circumvent normal due process and to frustrate the will of Brewster voters. They’ve gone rogue.
The selectmen proposed a new bylaw, to supersede the existing one, that would grant them the right to ignore the planning board and approve the project “by right” – that is, by fiat of the five-person board of selectmen – without any input from the planning board or the voters.
Similarly, CVEC’s board of directors voted to pursue an exemption to Brewster’s wind turbine zoning bylaws from the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) for precisely the same purpose – to circumvent the planning board’s decision.
Public statements by CVEC and the selectmen indicate they are working in concert and are mutually supportive of each other’s actions.
The selectmen failed in their bid to change the bylaws when Article 5 was defeated at town meeting May 2.
CVEC and the Brewster selectmen are now focusing on intervention at the state level, where any decision would be rendered by a politically appointed board of oversight at DPU. If successful, that move would take the decision completely out of Barnstable County.
How is that for accountability to the community?
Ironically, even as county government was completing a yearlong process last month to implement a regional regulatory framework for wind turbines – an effort motivated in no small part by a desire to retain local and regional autonomy over such decisions – CVEC was moving aggressively to bypass due process in Brewster and all the new regulations enacted by the Barnstable County government!
Just as the Brewster selectmen believe they should be empowered to overrule their own planning board, CVEC, a municipal cooperative rightly regarded as an extension of the Barnstable County government, believes it should be able to ignore all the newly enacted minimum performance standards for wind turbines.
Just as the Brewster selectmen believe that they can do a better job than the planning board of determining what lies in Brewster citizens’ best interests, CVEC believes it – and the DPU – can do a better job than the Cape Cod Commission, the elected Assembly of Delegates and the elected county commissioners of determining what lies in the best interests of Barnstable County residents.
The selectmen and CVEC both know full well that the project falls far short of the minimum standards for wind turbines that were recently adopted and approved in Barnstable County.
Simply put, the grim determination of both the Brewster selectmen and CVEC to evade not only the judgment of the Brewster Planning Board, but also the Cape Cod Commission and the entire Barnstable County government, is fueled by the certain knowledge that their project cannot help but be judged to be risky and substandard by any impartial regulator.
Members of Save Our Seashore urge the Brewster selectmen and CVEC to cease these brazen attempts to force their proposal upon an unwilling community, frustrate the will of the voters and deprive residents of their local autonomy.
We urge the Barnstable County commissioners to oppose these same efforts vigorously and to take all appropriate action – including the recall of their current appointed representatives at both CVEC and the Cape Light Compact (CVEC’s chief source of funding) – to ensure that such representatives act in the best interests of county residents.
Eric Bibler of Weston, Conn., a longtime regular visitor to Wellfleet, is president of Save Our Seashore.
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