May 14, 2011

Brewster Wind plan could still fly – board supports DPU appeal

By Rich Eldred, Cape Codder, 13 May 2011

Monday night was an evening of affirmation for the board of selectmen – they affirmed their support of the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative’s appeal to the Department of Public Utilities.

That appeal hasn’t actually been made yet, although CVEC’s board did vote 8-2-2 to do so on March 17. The planning board voted 3-3-1 on a motion to deny a special permit for CVEC’s twin 410-foot turbines off Freeman’s Way on Feb. 16, effectively blocking the project. One option was to appeal through the courts, another to go the DPU’s “special permit exemption process” which CVEC chose.

The selectmen also advanced Article 5 at the town meeting last week, which would have bypassed the special permit process, but that proposal failed to get the required two-thirds approval with 725 yeas and 411 nays.

“As far as I’m concerned we had a 64 percent majority,” noted chairman of the board Ed Lewis, “We didn’t reach 66 and two-thirds but 64 percent of the people at town meeting wanted this project to go through.”

“That to me is a strong majority, not 51 percent,” he added. “That’s why I support moving this forward through the DPU.”

That was the general sentiment of the board, but not one shared by the many project foes that filled the room.

“There’s no such thing as close, except in horseshoes and hand grenades,” one woman said. “Talk to Al Gore about close. He knows about close. It didn’t pass.”

“If you succeed in your ambitions in siting these turbines I say this unto you – that you will reap a very bitter harvest,” promised Jim Shyne.

What the town hopes to reap is $3.6 million over 15 years in lease payments and lower electric rates.

Town Administrator Charles Sumner noted Brewster pursued Article 5 to save money, as appeals through the courts would be expensive and time consuming. He clearly recommends supporting CVEC.

“The cost for the appeal will be financed by CVEC,” Sumner noted. “We have $15,000 to $17,000 in counsel costs so far.”

Selectman Peter Norton was the one dissenting vote on the 4-1 affirmation.

“It (article 5) was billed, at least implicity as a time for pure democracy,” he opined. “Let the voters decide. So I have a difficulty referring this, even though it was a close vote.”

Selectman James Foley noted that Article 5 was a zoning bylaw and some no voters were upset the process, not the turbine plan.

“I think if it was just a referendum it would have had more than two-thirds I think it would’ve passed with three-quarters of the vote,” Foley opined.

“I think we should support [CVEC], we’ve been their partners in this,” Selectman Greg Levasseur added.

Selectman Dan Rabold riled some in the audience when he intimated they hadn’t done their homework.

“I’ve visited turbines, unlike some members of the planning board who never took the time and like some members of Citizens for Responsible Energy who never took the time. I feel it is disingenuous of them to speak of something they’ve never visited,” he declared. “I’m very disappointed with the anti’s and their tactics and methods.”

That stirred the pot.

“You can’t say who des and doesn’t do things,” Rick Judd declared. “Don’t think for one minute we are a group of people who sit in front of computer screens and don’t educate ourselves.”

“We have felt we’ve been marginalized all the way through. First we were a vocal minority, we were late in the game, influenced by outside forces, the planning board was marginalized to three votes,” countered Mitch Relin, president of CRE. “Now you’re marginalizing one third of the town. Where does this marginalization end?”

“This town is fractured and all the opinions we’ve expressed have simply fallen on deaf ears,” Shyne added.

People worried about their health and property values.

“If these wind turbines go up and we hear the noise I would like to know what you will do for us?” asked Jean Leidenfrost. “Will you turn them off at night so I can sleep?”

Lewis noted the board was going into executive session and would hammer out a set of conditions for the project.

“We’ll put conditions in to protect as far as sound is concerned,” he promised.

The vote to affirm was 4-1 with Norton voting no.

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