LENOX – In a move reminiscent of the bipartisan group set up by the U.S. Congress to achieve massive spending savings, the Select Board has approved creation of a six-member super-committee of proponents and opponents to review a wind-turbine study atop Lenox Mountain and provide a recommendation by year’s end.
The action Wednesday night followed an impassioned 45-minute debate about a preliminary research report by a consultant that has aroused the ire of nearby residents both in Lenox and Richmond.
A citizens’ group, Preservelenoxmountain.org, is waging a vigorous campaign against the idea, the town’s third divisive controversy of the year, behind the still-unresolved Kennedy Park overlook issue and the ongoing “Lenoxology” marketing campaign.
Selectmen Chairman John McNinch emphasized that “it’s this board’s goal to go forward” with less-intrusive, non-controversial solar energy projects.
“It would be beneficial for the town to form a balanced committee to explore the potential of wind power,” said Selectman David Roche, with a specific focus on “whether it’s right for the town.”
“I don’t want this to drag out, we’ve got to get started,” he emphasized, adding that he expects no consensus from the committee but a “good discussion” leading to a “reasonable decision on which way we think the town should be going.”
But, he stressed, solar “has a life of its own and has got to proceed on its own.”
Emphasizing that she and other board members lack expertise on wind power, Linda Messana agreed that solar should be on the town’s front burner, “but we owe it to the taxpayers to at least look into wind powerŠ.This is a town that needs to work together, not against each other, and we need to find out what’s the absolute best for our community. We need the experts.”
Selectman Kenneth Fowler said he’s “leery about pursuing any one energy source over another. We need to hear as much as we can, present that to the public and guide the public to a decision.”
Board member Dia Trancynger, citing the town’s expenditure of $90,000 on the wind-power feasibility study, pushed for a committee with a mandate to examine solar and wind options.
McNinch, a strong advocate of wind and other forms of alternative energy, advocated a look at the opponents’ web site. “It’s very insightful, granted it’s one-sided. I encourage everyone to look at both sides. Bring everything to the table and let the town as a group decide.”
Representing the Lenox Environmental Committee, Scott Laugenour called for town-sponsored public forums to educate residents and the Selectmen on solar and wind options.
Lenox resident Jo Anne Magee urged that the new committee focus solely on wind “because solar is much less contentious. Wind can be more destructive, it just has more impacts on our community that require a much deeper, more in-depth look.”
Complaining that her Richmond property had not been included in the wind-power study conducted for Lenox, Jenifer Augur said she lives a half-mile from the potential site on land that has been in her family since the Revolutionary War.
“I’m a descendant of three of the founding families of Richmond,” she declared, “and I don’t believe you guys have the right to impact my life this drastically.”
She expressed concerns about “flashing red lights” atop turbines and potential effects on the nearby watershed.
Richmond resident Neal Pilson advocated attention to what “these towers would do to the ecology of the mountain. They would be very destructive, intrusive, damaging.”
Following the discussion, the Select Board voted 4-0, with one abstention, to create a committee of six pro and con members, plus Selectman Fowler as a non-voting moderator, to focus exclusively on the Lenox Mountain wind study.
The committee is to report back by Jan. 1. An extension is possible if needed.
Recommendations for potential solar installations will be examined separately by the Selectmen as part of a joint project with the town of Lee.
Town Manager Gregory Federspiel is accepting applications for membership on the committee.
In Their Own Words …
Highlights from discussion of a wind-turbine study atop Lenox Mountain, from last week’s Board of Selectmen meeting:
“We’re looking into whether we want to continue going forward with wind-energy studies or whether to put wind on the back burner right now.”
— Select Board Chairman John McNinch
“I cannot believe how incredibly misinformed they [some residents] are about the intent of the initial [wind] study. They’re totally off the markŠ.We should have all our cards on the table and look at each individual option.”
— Select Board member Dia Trancynger
“This is not just a financial issue, it’s not a boon to the town without major consequences. I encourage you to learn who will benefit the most from this financially compared to the destruction it will do on the environment back there. It’s a lot of very rich people making a lot of money from these proposals. I want to be sure Lenox doesn’t exclude me or people in my situation from your discussions. I congratulate you for understanding that democracy is run from the people up, not the government down. I encourage you to do your homework …”
— Jenifer Augur, Richmond resident
“Wind turbines would loom over the village, Tanglewood, Lilac Park, Cliffwood Street, they will be visible from many parts of the town and will be within a mile and a half of several hundred residents of both Richmond and Lenox.”
— Neal Pilson, Richmond resident
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