Town Meeting not able to withdraw wind support, Fairhaven officals say
Credit: By BETH PERDUE, www.southcoasttoday.com 7 February 2012 ~~
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FAIRHAVEN – Although a proposal to stop the town’s wind turbine project is on next week’s Special Town Meeting warrant, it’s unlikely to have any impact on the turbine project.
Even if Town Meeting wanted to reverse its 2007 vote, it could no longer do so legally, town officials said.
On Monday, selectmen voted to recommend indefinite postponement of the warrant article that calls for immediately stopping the wind project as well as two additional articles. Their decision was based on a written legal opinion from Town Counsel Thomas Crotty which suggested the articles, as worded, could not be legally acted upon.
Called by a petition of more than 300 signatures, the Feb. 15 Special Town Meeting will address four articles in total, three submitted by petition and a fourth article to fund labor contracts.
With regard to the wind article, Crotty said Town Meeting cannot legally rescind its 2007 support because developers have relied on its decision when investing in the project and selectmen have entered into binding contracts based on it.
“Town Meeting at this point does not have the authority to stop the project,” he told The Standard-Times.
Developers Fairhaven Wind LLC, a partnership of Palmer Capital Corp., Solaya Energy LLC, and CCI Energy LLC, are investing in excess of $8 million to build two 1.5 megawatt wind turbines in Fairhaven expected to generate 7,227,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year.
In his opinion, Crotty also questioned the legality of two additional articles proposed by petitioners including one to reduce the number of signatures needed for the recall of an elected official and extend the time allowed to collect them, and another to set term limits.
Crotty called the recall petition improper and ineffective as worded and noted that amending the law would require a home rule petition from the town. This article to set term limits may be lawful for other town boards, he said, but would probably not apply to selectmen based on a prohibition to changing the composition of the board.
In his comments, Crotty pointed out that all articles must be reviewed and accepted by the attorney general before becoming effective.
Windwise attorney Ann DeNardis could not be reached for comment.
With a week to go until Town Meeting, it’s uncertain whether voters will agree with selectmen and move to indefinitely postpone the articles or choose to vote on them despite questioned legal status.
On Friday, Town Moderator Mark Sylvia said he plans to speak to Crotty this week to get an understanding of what the legal issues are but that he will recuse himself from the wind article vote because of his position as the state’s commissioner of the Department of Energy Resources.
“For the past three years, since I’ve worked in the (state’s) Green Communities division and then as commissioner of the Department of Energy Resources, I’ve recused myself from anything to do with Fairhaven energy,” said Sylvia.
In his place, Sylvia said, an acting moderator will be appointed. That recommendation is typically made by selectmen, but approval must come from Town Meeting, he said.
“So it would either be the town clerk or it could be a member of Town Meeting who is nominated from the floor,” said Sylvia.
Even as the town prepares to vote, work on the approximately 400-foot wind turbines continues with the expectation that parts will be delivered this month and construction will be ongoing into March. Foundations for the two towers have been poured and developers say they hope to finish in time for an April 22 Earth Day celebration.
Special Town Meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 15 at Hastings Middle School.
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