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Commission delays decision on land swap

IPSWICH – After a nearly two-hour discussion, the Conservation Commission decided last night to delay its decision on a land swap that would determine where a wind turbine could eventually be built.

The commission will pick up discussion of the land swap at its next meeting, Sept. 21.

At issue is the placement of a second wind turbine on town-owned land at the end of Town Farm Road; Ipswich’s first, municipally owned turbine became operational in May.

For the project to move forward, a land swap is needed because D&C Construction, the private company looking to build the turbine, would like to build it on a parcel that is under the care and custody of the Conservation Commission.

The swap would transfer a larger, nearby parcel of town-owned land to the Conservation Commission, allowing the wind turbine to be built on the smaller parcel.

Last night’s continuance came after several residents in the audience expressed confusion on exactly which parcels of land were being considered – one that the commission did a site walk on in April or a second, a study of which was posted on the town website.

Conservation Commission Chairman David Standley said the board would consider only the first parcel, which they had a public hearing on in April, at the Sept. 21 meeting. An environmental study of the first parcel will be posted on ipswichma.gov today for the public to consider, Conservation Agent David Pancoast said.

An article involving the land swap of Conservation Commission land where the new wind turbine would be built has been drafted for the Oct. 17 Special Town Meeting. The proposed turbine was also discussed last night at a meeting of the Ipswich Utility Department’s electric subcommittee, held at the same time as the Conservation Commission meeting.

Numerous residents – a good number of them from North Ridge Road, which overlooks the salt marsh and existing turbine – expressed feelings of being left in the dark about the second turbine project.

“There’s a lot of confusion in the room,” said Steve Reydel, a North Ridge Road resident. “Can we please get a little time under our belts to understand the impacts (of the first turbine) before we railroad another one through? … I just feel there’s been a tremendous rush here and a lack of transparency to the town.”

Reydel said he’s not against alternative energy but feels the project needs “due diligence.”

Kially Ruiz, wind consultant for D&C Construction, said the turbine proposal has been before town departments, through the public request for proposals (RFP) process, for a full year.

“There has been nothing done in hiding,” Ruiz said. “We’re not some kind of large company trying to ram this down the throats of Ipswich citizens.”

Through the discussion, Conservation Commission members stressed that their decision is on the land swap only. Issues of the turbine’s visual and other impacts will be explored when the project goes before the Planning Board.

Unlike Ipswich’s first wind turbine, the new turbine would be a private project, owned, operated and maintained by D&C Construction. The town would lease the land to D&C and draw up an agreement to receive wind power that the turbine produced.

In addition to the Conservation Commission, the land swap and wind turbine project will ultimately need the approval of the Planning Board, selectmen, Town Meeting, the state Legislature, and the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.