For ardent advocates and fiercely passionate opponents of a potential project at the westward-facing Lenox Mountain ridge line 1,800 feet in elevation, the prospect of a 262-foot high turbine, or two, has already stirred a hornet’s nest of strong feelings not only in Lenox but among Richmond residents who live near the site.
LENOX – Now the “fun” begins for the town’s wind-energy think tank.
A newly appointed, six-member committee has less than four months to come up with a report for the Select Board on whether to proceed with a proposal for one or two municipal wind turbines atop Lenox Mountain.
The Wind Energy Research Panel will begin holding weekly, public meetings. The schedule will be announced soon by the Selectmen and Town Manager Gregory Federspiel.
Kenneth Fowler, a Select Board member and chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, will be the non-voting moderator at the meetings, which he expects to begin next week.
“This will be an informational forum,” Fowler told The Eagle on Thursday. “Factual information will be discussed, site-specific to Lenox Mountain.”
Asked whether the panel would vote before presenting its findings to the Selectmen early next year, Fowler said “it’s quite possible; one side may sway the other, so it could go either way” rather than ending in a 50-50 split.
He suggested that a pro-wind advocate could determine that the Lenox Mountain site might not be suitable, thus joining the opposition, or vice-versa.
“Hit me, don’t hit each other,” Fowler said when queried on whether he might have to umpire potential verbal confrontations between the three pro-site and three anti-site panel members.
For ardent advocates and fiercely passionate opponents of a potential project
at the westward-facing Lenox Mountain ridge line 1,800 feet in elevation, the prospect of a 262-foot high turbine, or two, has already stirred a hornet’s nest of strong feelings not only in Lenox but among Richmond residents who live near the site.
Prior to unanimous approval of the panel’s members by the Select Board on Wednesday night, Chairman John McNinch said “an amazing bunch of great people came out for this.” The Selectmen interviewed 10 applicants for the committee over the past week.
“To determine whether wind energy is feasible on Lenox Mountain – that is their charge,” said Selectman David Roche, who presented for approval a list of three members leaning against the idea. They are retired state of Massachusetts forester Warren Archey, MIT mechanical-engineering professor Christopher Magee, and Channing Gibson, a former Hollywood film and TV producer and writer “with lots of significant personal experience with wind power there,” Roche said.
An alternate member is Magee’s wife, Jo Anne, a leader of the opposition group Preserve Lenox Mountain.
Select Board member Linda Messana announced the list of committee members who lean in favor of the potential project. They include Dr. Michael Kaplan, a family physician in Lee associated with the Mass Audubon Society for the past 15 years; Jamie Cahillane, program manager for recycling services at the Center for EcoTechnology in Pittsfield and a member of the Lenox Environmental Committee, and Eric Vincelette, a member of the town’s Finance Committee. Local architect James Harwood is an alternate.
“We asked each and every person if they could be open-minded,” Messana noted.
Both Messana and Roche emphasized that the committee’s mission is to examine the specific feasibility of the Lenox Mountain site that was studied by Weston Solutions of Concord, N.H., and deemed “viable.”
The Select Board approved both lineups of panel members in a 5-0 vote. Any alternative-energy proposal endorsed by the Selectmen would go to Town Meeting voters for a decision at the annual gathering next May.
“The charge for the panel is not to decide whether or not we’re going to have wind turbines on Lenox Mountain,” McNinch said. “The charge is to get as much information on either side as possible, then we’ll host some open forums and then we’ll make our decision based on all of that. It’s a think tank, an information-gathering committee to give us all the education we can get.”
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