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Shelburne wind farm plan withdrawn; Landowner says he needs to prepare more

SHELBURNE FALLS – The $40 million, eight-turbine Mount Massaemet wind farm proposal has been taken off the table … for now.

Frederick D. Field quietly withdrew his Zoning Board of Appeals special permit application at the end of a long meeting Thursday night that brought out 250 residents from several hilltowns.

The announcement brought a huge cheer from the audience, which included residents and town officials from Shelburne, Buckland, Ashfield, Rowe and other towns.

The ZBA unanimously accepted the withdrawal “without prejudice,” which means that Field could reapply with a new proposal at another time.

When asked after the meeting why he withdrew, Field said, “Obviously, we need a better application. We’ll be back.”

His son, John Field added: “The process is new to us, as to what information is to be required.”

Several ZBA members told Field what the town Planning Board had told him last week: that the plan needed specific details before they could even consider a permit.

“So far, documents for this permit are grossly inadequate,” said ZBA member Ted Merrill. He also wanted to see road design plans, since 60-ton trucks would be traveling up to the Mount Massaemet ridge with turbine components.

The Conservation Commission wanted Field to file a “request for determination of applicability” (RDA) or “notice of intent” to begin a detailed assessment of the project and conditions that might be required to lessen adverse impact to wetlands, natural resources and habitat. Planning Board Chairman V. Matthew Marchese said that board was unable to make recommendations, based on the limited information presented thus far.

Mark Donohoe of Action Survey Engineering, who accompanied Field and his sons, said the applicant didn’t want to spend “hundreds of thousands of dollars” for the requested studies without assurance of getting a permit for the project.

“We’re talking chicken and the egg here,” Planning Board Chairman Joseph Palmieri replied. “How do you expect us to approve a project without specifics. You’re expecting us to approve a concept.”

“Cape Wind has yet to be approved, although they’ve spent millions,” Donohoe commented.

During the public comment portion, a representative from Industrial Communications Inc. spoke of concerns about how the turbines would affect the nearby communications tower, which is used by Northeast Utilities and AT&T Wireless.

A lawyer hired by opponents of the wind farm, Thomas Lesser of Conway, pointed out the short-comings of the proposal. “You don’t have a real application here,” he remarked. “You don’t have construction diagrams. We have no idea what the roads are going to look like. This application is insufficient.” Lesser recommended dropping the application “without prejudice,” until more detailed plans were submitted in a new application.

Several Shelburne Center residents spoke about their concerns for their health and their property values.

Officials said at least 250 people turned out for the Zoning Board of Appeals hearing on a proposed eight-turbine wind farm along the Mount Massaemet ridge in Shelburne. The plan was withdrawn.