SHELBURNE – The would-be developer of a commercial wind farm has filed a special permit application to build eight, 2.5-megawatt wind turbines near the ridge line of Mount Massaemett in Shelburne Center.
The Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a public hearing on the Mount Massaemet Windfarm Inc. proposal on Oct. 6, beginning at 7:30 p.m.; inside the selectmen’s meeting room in Memorial Hall, Shelburne Falls.
Frederick “Don” Field Jr., who met with the ZBA for an informational session in August, filed a formal application on Sept. 6, according to Town Clerk Beverly Neeley.
Field, a former Shelburne resident, told the ZBA that the $40 million project would generate enough wind-energy to power 6,000 homes.
Mount Massaemet Windfarm Inc., which was formed two years ago, has been gathering wind data near the 87-foot-high fire tower on the mountain since December, and transmitting it to the Wind Energy Center at the University of Massachusetts. At the first meeting with the ZBA, Field said that early evaluation shows “there is an adequate wind resource at this site for a commercial wind-generated electric project.”
According to the August presentation, the turbines would be 420 feet tall “from the top of the blade to the ground,” and would be placed about 200 feet below the ridge line, which is 1,594 feet tall at its highest point. The turbines would be installed in a north-to-south line, on the eastern side of the ridge. Access to the site would be through the Davenport Maple Farm, on Tower Road, off the Mohawk Trail. The facility would be sited on part of Field’s 81 acres in Shelburne Center, along with land leased from other property owners in the area.
The turbines are to be built over a 600-acre section, with a temporary road to be built through another property owner’s land, for transporting components during the construction.
But earlier this week – without knowing that the special permit application had been filed – the town Planning Board began discuss whether Shelburne should develop a wind-turbine siting bylaw, to be included among other zoning bylaw revisions to be proposed at the annual town meeting in May.
The board agreed Monday night to offer its help to the ZBA, which would be dealing with the special permit process for Field’s proposal. They will also ask if the ZBA is interested in a joint meeting, in which they could invite other town and government officials who have had more experience in dealing with wind turbine proposals.
The Planning Board heard from resident Deb Andrew on Monday night. Andrew urged the board to become better informed on concerns regarding the siting of turbines. She presented a list of sources and websites that contain studies and wind turbine research.
“My perspective is: let’s make sure this is really good for the community,” she said.
Andrew was also concerned about proposed state legislation, the Wind Energy Siting Reform Act, which would enable proposals for commercial wind farms to bypass local zoning bylaws and reviews by local town boards. Andrews said that a public hearing on the bill already took place this month, and that a second hearing is to be scheduled. She said the bill could be voted on at any time after the second public hearing has taken place.
Andrews said about 28 western Massachusetts towns are opposed to the wind siting reform act, but that many areas of the state, which are unsuitable for wind farms, are indifferent to passage of the bill.
Planning Board Chairman Matthew Marchese said the bill is “very much on our radar screen.”
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