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Judge allows wind turbine lawsuit to proceed

FAIRHAVEN – Bristol County Superior Court Judge Thomas F. McGuire Jr. issued a ruling March 8 allowing a lawsuit by opponents of the wind turbines to move forward.

The attorneys for the developer had sought to have the case dismissed.

Judge McGuire allowed the two counts to proceed. One challenges the selectmen’s changing of the lots that were approved at the May 2007 Town Meeting. The other is based on alleged violations of the open meeting law.

Kenneth Pottel of Windwise said Tuesday night that he was very pleased with the judge’s decision. He referred specific comments about it to the group’s attorney, Ann DeNardis, who represents 10 plaintiffs.

On Tuesday, Ms. DeNardis said the judge’s decision means, “The developer goes forward with the construction of these wind turbines at his peril.”

Ms. DeNardis said the Feb. 15 Town Meeting vote to indefinitely postpone a vote on halting the turbines was not a vote of confidence in the project. She said the vote left an opening for opponents to make another attempt to close them down at a Town Meeting in the future.

Ms. DeNardis said selectmen exceeded their authority when they changed one of the lots without seeking Town Meeting authority. In e-mails to Executive Secretary Jeffrey W. Osuch, developer Gordon Deane expressed concerns about changing the lots without going back to Town Meeting.

Ms. DeNardis said selectmen are required by law to “comply with the directives of Town Meeting and they went beyond their authority.”

She said selectmen also violated the open meeting law by meeting in executive session and thus trying to keep the project low key. She said they were “in essence keeping the town in the dark” when they should have kept the residents informed.

Town Counsel Thomas Crotty did not return a phone call from The Advocate in time for the paper’s deadline. He told The Standard-Times that the case is unlikely to be heard until 2014.

Mr. Osuch said the turbine opponents were rebuffed earlier by the same judge when he refused to issue an injunction, which would have forced a halt to the turbines.

This time, developer Fairhaven Wind LLC’s attorneys tried to get the case thrown out; they lost out when the judge said it may proceed. The case now proceeds on the same two counts the judge allowed previously.

Meanwhile, the developer has been moving forward with the wind turbines.