DENNIS – To the relief of some neighbors, a shellfish hatchery is dropping plans to install a wind turbine near Chapin Memorial Beach.
But the loss of a possible alternative energy source threatens the future of the Aquaculture Research Corp., President Richard Kraus said.
“I have no idea what we’re going to do,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Kraus told the Dennis Board of Selectmen on Tuesday that ARC was withdrawing a lawsuit against a regional historic preservation board that blocked plans for the 242-foot turbine.
“It’s too expensive, and we don’t have the time,” Kraus said.
The news was welcome to Dennis resident Rosemarie Austin, who was a defendant in the case. She is head of Save Our Beaches, an organization formed in response to the wind turbine plans.
“Wind turbines shouldn’t be put in neighborhoods,” Austin said. “None of us bear any ill will toward ARC. Industrial turbines should go in industrial areas.”
The hatchery is the largest on the East Coast and supplies clam and oyster seeds to about 90 shellfish farms from New York to Maine but mainly in Massachusetts, Kraus said.
Located in a historical area off Route 6A, the hatchery won the approval of the Old King’s Highway Historic District Committee in Dennis for its wind turbine plans in August 2010.
But one month later, the regional board of the historic preservation district, which covers the area north of Route 6 from Sandwich to Orleans, overturned the local committee’s decision after Austin filed an appeal.
In response, ARC sued the Old King’s Highway Regional Historic District Commission and Austin in Orleans District Court.
The shellfish hatchery argued that Austin did not have legal standing as a “visual abutter” and that the regional board had not proved the Dennis historic committee had been in error.
The town of Dennis also weighed in, along with Yarmouth, which is separated from ARC’s 39 acres of beach-front property by Chase Garden Creek.
The town of Dennis was named an intervenor in the court case on behalf of the plaintiff. The Dennis selectmen have said ARC’s operations are vital to the economic interests of the town.
The town of Yarmouth tried unsuccessfully to be named an intervenor on the side of the defendants.
Yarmouth officials said they weren’t taking a stand against the wind turbine. They said they wanted the interests of Yarmouthport residents, who would be able to see the turbine, to be represented.
Neighbors objected to the height of the turbine – 242 feet at the top of its blades – and that it would be seen from as far away as Sandy Neck Beach in West Barnstable.
Austin said the turbine would have towered over the area, where the next tallest structures were 40-foot telephone poles.
But ARC officials have said the electricity produced by the turbine would have helped curb energy costs that are amounting to more than $100,000 a year.
“We’ve cut back so much, we’re barely running,” Kraus said.
Most of the shellfish hatchery buildings are unheated, he said. “It’s the process that uses energy.”
The case was scheduled for a pretrial hearing Monday, but ARC officials asked for a postponement, Austin said.
Last month Orleans District Judge Brian Merrick ruled against ARC’s motion for a summary judgment that Austin had no legal standing in the case.
If the judge had ruled in favor of ARC, the original Dennis committee’s approval of the wind turbine would have stood without the shellfish hatchery having to go to trial.
Austin, who learned while watching the board of selectmen’s meeting on TV that ARC officials were dropping the case, said she was surprised.
Dennis town officials remain concerned about ARC’s ability to remain in business.
The selectmen “want them to be a viable business entity,” Dennis Town Administrator Richard White said.
“We’d be happy to look at any sites they might be interested in” for energy generation, he said.
But White said an area the town has designated for possible wind turbine use hasn’t shown “terrific results” for energy production from testing thus far.
ARC is interested in using the closed landfill for an alternative energy site, but the town already is working with a company to cover it with solar panels to supply the municipality’s electrical needs, White said.
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