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Lenox site visit just adds to list of questions

LENOX – A site visit to potential wind-turbine locations on Lenox Mountain raised more questions than it answered and was followed by a committee meeting peppered with contentious moments.

The Wind Energy Research Panel took a two-hour tour of the proposed site and the most likely access road to it. Following the visit, the panel returned to Town Hall and noted they will need more information in order to get an understanding of the site’s challenges.

If the town was to put forward a plan for two wind turbines, as suggested would be feasible in a study by Weston Solutions, it would require a clearance of between two and four acres for each. The turbines would be more than 400 feet tall from the blade tip to base.

Due to complications with a GPS device, the precise location was not reached, but the panel agreed the ridge line they hiked provided a reasonable estimate of what the site would look like.

Following the visit, panel members suggested floating a balloon to mimic the height of the turbines, saying it was difficult to get a feel for the size and scope of the project from their extended hike.

Panel member Channing Gibson said the group of 25 people that took part in the visit “saw a beautiful setting that is going to suffer a lot of disruption,” and raised questions about the impacts of a refurbished access road and the accompanying power lines.

Panel member Jim Harwood said the difficult decision the
town will face involves the costs and benefits of a wind tower, saying it’s a matter of “engineering facts versus aesthetic considerations and quality of life.”

The six-member panel is split between supporters and opponents of the project. The committee is being moderated by Selectman Kenneth Fowler, and Sustainability Coordinator Adele Gravitz is providing technical assistance.

At the meeting, panel member Christopher Magee raised questions about pro-wind biases of Gravitz and Town Manager Gregory Federspiel, which led Federspiel to abruptly leave the meeting. Gravitz later denied she had any biases, but her role was later clarified to note that Fowler would be the sole moderator of the meetings.

At one point Harwood mentioned the need for civility in the meetings, a suggestion Magee seconded.

The panel is set to meet again on Thursday, and representatives from Weston are expected to be on hand to answer a series of questions the panel laid out on Saturday.