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Bourne affords AG 30 days more of local turbine-bylaw review

BUZZARDS BAY – The town has acceded to a request by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office in Springfield for one more month to scrutinize the revised Bourne turbine-review bylaw, which was amended at the infamous May 9 Special Town Meeting.

Town Clerk Barry Johnson on Monday said Associate Town Counsel Brian Wall fielded the state request and granted it. Johnson said the new deadline for a decision on the controversial and high-profile turbine bylaw is Sept. 13.

The AG request comes a week after New Generation Wind attorney Diane Tillotson wrote to the state, urging rejection of the revised bylaw; which she said was approved after some Bourne voters left the special session following an accident-induced shut-down of electric power to Bourne High School.

The revised wind-energy conversion bylaw has been under cursory attorney general review for three months. Though the AG is outside the bounds of political pressure and community influence on such issues, the administrative review request for more review time is far from subtle.

The de facto target of the bylaw revision, of course, is the New Generation wind-farm proposal for four turbines to be built north of the canal beyond Scenic Highway and Route 25.

Tillotson argues the move to revise the bylaw was reactionary and pivots on organized community opposition to the New Generation proposal. She wants the revised bylaw rejected.

The vote to amend the bylaw, though the discussion was not instructive, passed the test for a two-thirds majority after town meeting nearly veered out of control before the lights came back on. The secret ballot vote was orderly. The town’s turbine review bylaw was amended to preclude industrial-grade structures.

If ultimately accepted by the attorney general, New Generation proponents say it would preclude turbines any place in Bourne. Opponents argue the opposite. In the meantime, industrial-grade turbines have been constructed on Camp Edwards near the PAVE PAWS radar facility atop Flat Rock Hill.

New Generation opponents have trained their arguments now against proposed Turbine No. 5, which would be constructed outside the Bournedale Elementary School property off Ernest Valeri Road and Scenic Highway.

Superintendent Steve Lamarche said wind-farm opponents have visited with him and lodged their objections to the turbine location. Follow-up, he said, has included “inundation” of e-mail messages.

Lamarche said it is “too early” for the school committee to form a decision for or against the Ingersoll / Lorusso wind farm plan or Turbine No. 5. He also said it is “too premature” for him to recommend a vote for or against the alternative-energy proposal.

“It’s a zoning matter, I respect that,” Lamarche said. “I also respect the work of the Cape Cod Commission where the plan is under review.”

The New Generation proposal is the first land-based wind-farm advanced in Massachusetts. It would sell energy directly into the regional electric grid through Bournedale. New Generation has offered monthly electric bill abatements to neighbors of the turbines, who have battled to have the proposal rejected by the Cape commission.

Commission review continues. But that review has not been sharply defined, if citizen testimony is any barometer of community acceptance of alternative energy – somewhere else.

A sub-committee may advance the wind-farm plan to the full voting membership of the regional land-use planning agency. If it passes muster there, it would advance to Bourne Planning Board review; perhaps under the revised bylaw, depending on the outcome of attorney general review.

There are legal arguments contending the revised bylaw would be in effect for local wind-farm review. There are conflicting arguments saying the proposal would be reviewed under zoning in place when the wind-farm plan was filed with the town and sent to commission review.

The Ingersoll / Lorusso plan is the second high-profile proposal to test the Cape commission. The first was CanalSide Commons.