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Fairhaven wind foes head back to court

FAIRHAVEN – Opponents of Fairhaven’s two proposed wind turbines are heading back to court next week in one of several efforts under way to shut down the town-supported wind project.

Twenty-two plaintiffs have filed a civil suit against the project and will be in New Bedford Superior Court Jan. 3 seeking an injunction against continued construction, according to attorney Ann DeNardis.

DeNardis said this is a new suit naming the town of Fairhaven, Board of Selectmen and Building Commissioner Wayne Fostin as defendants. Windwise’s attempt to revive a 2008 lawsuit against the turbines, which named the Planning Board as defendant, was denied earlier this month.

Among other counts, the suit alleges that the town exceeded its authority “by entering into a lease for the property located within Assessor’s Map 28 Lot 9,” not Map 28 Lots 8 and 8A as had been authorized by Town Meeting.

Plaintiffs also allege that the town’s bylaw requires 10 acres of land for the construction of a wind turbine, but that Lot 9 is only 7 acres.

“We feel it’s a violation of law,” DeNardis said.

Fairhaven Town Counsel Thomas Crotty could not be reached for comment.

At the same time it is pursuing legal action, Windwise has also begun circulating a petition calling for a special Town Meeting to address three specific issues, including shutting down turbine construction. The group is also pushing the Board of Health to address health issues related to wind turbines.

Windwise needs 200 certified signatures from registered voters to force a special Town Meeting, according to Town Clerk Eileen Lowney. If Windwise gets them, selectmen must schedule the meeting no later than 45 days after the petition is filed, she said.

One of three proposed Windwise articles calls for suspending construction, installation and operation of the turbines, suspending any contracts for these activities, and returning the land parcel off Arsene Street to its pre-construction state.

The other two articles target the town’s current leadership by proposing term limits and amending the process to initiate a recall of an elected official to allow for more time to obtain necessary signatures.

Although proposed by Windwise, two of the three articles will likely gain the support of a newly formed group in Fairhaven that was organized to promote transparent and fair politics. A spin-off from the school building issue, Fair Action for Fairhaven started meeting in November and launched its website, FairActionFhvn.org on Monday, according to co-founder Christopher Andersen.

The group, which currently has about 30 members, is working on several articles of its own that it intends to propose for the annual Town Meeting this spring, but would likely support two of the Windwise articles, Andersen said.

“I think the first two (articles) would definitely lend themselves to leveling the political landscape a little bit,” said Andersen. “The third one (on the wind turbines) I think is more of a personal choice. People have varying views on the wind turbine issue in our group.”

Windwise’s term limit article proposes creating a two-consecutive-term limit for Fairhaven elected officials with an overall limit of six years in any one position. The proposed bylaw requires elected officials to step down after their current term ends if they have served more than the six-year limit.

If the bylaw is enacted, all three Fairhaven selectmen would be automatically serving their last term.