SUMNER – Selectman Mark Silber accused members of Sumner’s wind committee of attempting to circumvent the Board of Selectmen in its ordinance-writing process.
Silber claimed that an “emergency meeting” organized on Sunday, July 10 by planning board and Industrial Wind Ordinance Committee (IWOC) member Jeff Pfeiffer was called without consulting selectmen and improperly presented as a town-sanctioned event.
“Our authority was circumvented and that is disappointing to me,” said Silber.
Sumner’s administrative assistant, Cynthia Norton, claimed Pfeiffer used an e-mail list that town officials use to alert citizens and members of the media of upcoming meetings in order to get the word out about acoustics expert Richard James speaking in Sumner, and did so without consulting anyone from the town office.
“It concerns me that he takes a list that we use to send out meeting agendas,” said Norton. “When Pfeiiffer uses the town’s e-mail list, that becomes a town meeting.”
IWOC chairman Daniel Perron said that he was not aware that the meeting would be taking place until he received the e-mail on Sunday morning. Perron said he did not attend the emergency meeting because he felt the process used to set it up was counter-productive to what the committee wanted to accomplish.
“I felt it was out of step with what the committee wants to do,” said Perron. “It appears that it was represented [as an official meeting] by using the the town e-mail.”
Perron did add, however, that some members of the IWOC were beginning to feel that the selectmen were attempting to exercise too much oversight on the ordinance writing process.
“I’ve been getting some feedback and gotten some e-mails that have shown there’s some kind of conflict stewing,” said Perron. “Some are saying ‘if the selectmen don’t back off, I’m going to walk off.'”
“It would be good if we can come up with some way of building trust in you to allow the committee to do what we need to do.”
Silber responded that the selectmen had a right to be involved in the process because the board is an elected body that was responsible for appointing the IWOC.
“The conflict originated from the committee itself. Selectmen have always been involved in writing ordinances,” said Silber, who attended the meeting with James. “It seems to me at that meeting … the movement was to exclude the selectmen.”
Silber also claimed that the meeting presented a biased point of view by only presenting an expert that was opposed to wind energy. James was one of several experts who testified before a state committee considering stricter wind energy regulations for the Department of Environmental Protection.
“[James] was on the payroll of a specific lobby group,” said Silber. “There were other people who were testifying, and I see no evidence that anyone else was invited.”
James spoke to members of the town on the dangers of “low-frequency” noise from wind turbines. He recommended that the town draft an ordinance that limits noise levels to 35 decibels at night and requires a setback of one and a half miles from any residence.
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