FAIRHAVEN – If all goes according to Windwise’s plan, Town Meeting voters will have the opportunity to shut down the wind turbine project before the end of February.
But the decision won’t be without repercussions, according to developers who say there will be legal implications to doing so.
On Monday, Windwise’s Ken Pottel dropped off a signed petition at Town Hall supporting the scheduling of a special Town Meeting to address three proposed warrant articles, including one to shut down the wind project. The petition was signed by more than 300 residents with the requisite number of signatures certified by Town Clerk Eileen Lowney before the end of the day.
Technically, that means selectmen are now required to schedule the special Town Meeting within 45 days, or late February. But town officials said, first, the articles will be forwarded to town counsel to determine if they are worded in the correct legal manner, indicating there is a possibility the meeting will not be scheduled if they are not.
“From past experience, I know that if something wasn’t legally worded, then the town moderator doesn’t allow the article,” said Selectman Michael Silvia.
Pottel said he isn’t worried. The articles have been reviewed by attorney Ann DeNardis, he said, and he believes they will hold up to scrutiny. The three articles propose setting term limits for elected officials and granting more time to get the necessary signatures to recall an elected official, in addition to stopping the wind turbine project.
On their part, developers say there will be legal implications to any decision to shut down the project.
Developer Gordon Deane said Fairhaven Wind LLC has invested in excess of $8 million in the project in addition to the expected revenue from selling the energy produced over the 20-year lease with the town. Fairhaven Wind LLC also has a contract with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Lab to sell it renewable energy credits, a contract it would be forced to breach if the wind project fails, Deane said.
“From Fairhaven Wind’s perspective, what we would have is a breach of contract claim against the town,” said Deane. “We have a valid lease agreement with the power purchasing agreement attached to it. We have expended a lot of funds and there would be cost implications if the town decided to breach the contract.
“It’s not the kind of situation that we would simply walk away from.”
Deane said he is currently working to organize an expert forum about wind energy projects at the request of selectmen and believes the event will take place sometime during the week of Jan. 23. Part of the delay in scheduling the forum, he said, has been the hope that the state would release its report on the health impacts of wind turbines. That report may be released as early as next week, he said.
In the meantime, Pottel said Windwise has scheduled its own educational forum on Jan. 26 to inform the public about the health effects of industrial wind turbines. The forum will start at 7 p.m. in the Congregational Church in Fairhaven.
On Monday, Windwise activists were also making their presence felt at Fairhaven Town Hall in an attempt to get their message out to more people. The group, which included about a dozen people, will be back from noon to 1 p.m. today and Wednesday, according to Pottel.
Windwise is also working with Fair Action for Fairhaven to propose another eight or nine Town Meeting articles, Pottel said, but these articles will be submitted for the annual spring Town Meeting in May.
Pottel said the three articles proposed for the special Town Meeting will also be resubmitted for the spring but will be withdrawn if they pass in February. The intent is to give the articles a second chance with a newly elected Town Meeting group in the spring should they fail with the currently elected body. Thanks to changes in precinct borders, all 400-plus Town Meeting members will be running for re-election in the spring and Pottel said many Windwise members will be among candidates.
Windwise will also be politically active in the coming town election, according to Pottel, who said the group plans a future announcement about its position on selectmen and School Committee candidates.
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