CHARLESTOWN – If Wednesday’s council meeting was an accurate portrayal of the sentiments of town residents, it is doubtful that the town will buy the 81 acres owned by Charlestown resident Larry LeBlanc, the proposed location for two wind turbines between King’s Factory Road and East Quail Run.
In late April, LeBlanc approached Town Administrator William DiLibero with an offer to sell the lot to the town for $3 million.
Town Councilor Gregory Avedisian said: “It’s strictly a verbal offer that he may pull off the table. I’m not prepared to rush into anything. I want to know what it’s going to be used for and how we’re going to pay for it.”
The council met in a special meeting Wednesday to receive comments on the proposal. Although sparsely attended, no one spoke in favor of purchasing the land, even though many of those present were neighbors of the proposed turbine project.
Throughout the meeting council members showed a keen interest on hearing the opinions of citizens in town. The feeling of those in attendance may have been summarized by resident Michael Chambers, who asked if here was a compelling reason to purchase the property.
Avedisian, as well as Councilors Lisa DiBello and Marjorie Frank, had the same question. “That’s the biggest question I have personally, why would we buy this?” DiBello said.
Avedisian, the council’s liaison to the Conservation Commission, said the group has already evaluated the land for use as open space and recreation. “They’ve already discussed how the property scores as open space and it doesn’t score well. Even if we were to get the property at its appraised value, well, for what purpose?” he said.
He later explained that commission members used a standard system to assess the value of the property in terms of land conservation. Based on the criteria the property scored 13 out of a possible 30 points.
Town Council President Thomas Gentz said the property is currently being assessed for the town and the result would be available at the next council meeting. In a quest to explore possibilities, he also asked if the property should be purchased to preserve Route 1, a Scenic Highway, or to preserve the dark skies around Frosty Drew Observatory, located across the highway at Ninigret Park. Residents reiterated that the land should not be purchased.
Prior to the meeting the council met in executive session to discuss the matter. No votes were taken. In 2008, LeBlanc offered the property to the town for about $5 million. In response, the council had the land appraised. The appraisal came in a $1.4 million. Because of the disparity and a lack of interest, the council declined to act on the offer.
Five years ago, LeBlanc proposed a senior community development that included affordable housing. Originally slated for 200 units, the proposal was scaled back to 125 condominiums in response to town concerns. Mounting opposition by neighbors and Coastal Resource Management Council rulings ultimately led to the project being canceled. In April, LeBlanc applied to the Planning Commission for a 39- lot affordable housing complex. According to LeBlanc, 10 of the houses would be priced as affordable.
The Whalerock wind turbine project has been the subject of several legal challenges. Last October, attorney James Donnelly filed a complaint on behalf of 33 neighbors of the project, contesting the town’s initial wind ordinance. In February, sued on behalf of a group of residents against the Zoning Board and Whalerock Renewable Energy, questioning the board’s January ruling that the proposal is vested. The Town Council has also filed a similar motion against the Zoning Board’s ruling. All parties are expected to file briefs within the next month.
The purchase remains on the agenda for tonight’s public workshop with the Planning Commission at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. The council is also expected to discuss the proposal at its next meeting on June 15.
Town Councilor Daniel Slattery was not in attendance.
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