LENOX – Off the books, for good.
The Select Board, accepting the recommendation of the town-appointed Wind Energy Research Panel, has rejected unanimously any further consideration of a municipal wind-turbine installation on the Lenox Mountain ridge line. The 4-0 vote was greeted by vigorous applause from about 40 people attending Wednesday’s meeting.
Select Board Chairman John McNinch praised the research panel for doing “a phenomenal job. The amount of material and information they looked through is incredible.”
Said McNinch, “I’m still a believer in wind energy and all alternative energy. I’ve stopped being a believer in wind energy on Lenox Mountain.”
The panel began its work in October with three supporters, three opponents and two alternates. The group met 10 times, conducted extensive research, visited the site of the proposed installation, and after some initial discord, settled into a cooperative working relationship.
Their final recommendations and personal statements, presented at an open town forum attended by about 90 people Monday night, came down against proceeding with the turbine proposal on the grounds of financial risk, potential health impacts and the likelihood of stark environmental degradation in the watershed area.
Selectman David Roche said that the group’s final report led him to doubt he would ever consider wind power, as long as other alternatives like solar or hydro were available.
“If we’re going to table this and put it on the back burner, that back burner better be all the way to Canada,” said Roche. “The town of Lenox has no business being in the energy business, none whatsoever. We should not take the risks, we should reap the rewards.”
Select Board member Linda Messana saluted the group for its open-minded approach. “At the beginning, it was a little rocky,” she said, “but at the end, I saw six people who came together for a common goal.
“It’s very gratifying to know we have people we can turn to and say, ‘Would you take a look at this?’ You spent many, many hours, and it was very much appreciated by the Board of Selectmen and the town.”
At a state hearing on wind energy held at Lee Middle and High School on Tuesday night, Selectman Kenneth Fowler noted, “the level of concern expressed by some of the people who actually live near some of these turbines installed already was overwhelming to me.”
Fowler, widely praised as moderator of the Lenox panel, warned of the danger of “not listening to the people” who cite ill effects of nearby turbines. He criticized the report by a group of state-appointed experts released in January that downplayed health and noise effects.
“If we get to a point where we’re putting turbines closer and closer to residences, we may find in 10, 15 or 20 years what a mistake we made,” Fowler added.
He proposed that Lenox should become a “model community” for solar energy, The town is actively pursuing installations at two Lenox Dale sites.
Former Selectman Joseph Nolan urged consideration of a conservation restriction for the Lenox Mountain ridge line, which he called “a sacred piece of property.”