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Shelburne eyes May vote on turbine moratorium

SHELBURNE – The Planning Board may seek a year-long moratorium on commercial wind turbines at the May 7 annual town meeting.

“I think the Planning Board could really use this space and this time,” Planning Chairman V. Matt Marchese said Wednesday night, in support of the measure.” “This is a big issue; people are impassioned on both sides. We need to develop a process (for creating a bylaw)… that’s going to take time.”

Marchese and another board member will speak to town lawyer Donna MacNicol later this week, before the next board meeting Tuesday at 7 p.m., in the Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School to vote on a commercial-scale wind turbine moratorium.

Among the board’s questions is whether a moratorium is advisable because a 20-megawatt, eight-turbine proposal for Mount Massaemet, submitted last year by Frederick D. Field, was withdrawn “without prejudice,” and Field has expressed interest in re-submitting a new plan.

Planning Board member Charles Washer has recused himself from all further wind-turbine siting bylaw discussions because he is related to one of the families whose land might be leased for a proposed wind farm on Mount Massaemet; he did not attend Wednesday’s meeting.

Also at issue are three annual town meeting articles, submitted by a petition of 46 residents, requesting that commercial-scale wind facilities be excluded in the zoning bylaw from electricity generating facilities that can be built in town with special permit approval.

Marchese reported on moratoriums supported in Heath and Colrain at recent special town meetings. He noted that Heath, Colrain, Buckland and Shelburn seem to be “heading down the same road” by considering moratoriums as they start to write bylaws for these commercial alternative energy systems.

In Shelburne’s case, he said, electrical generating systems are allowed through the special permit process, but that process has no specific criteria for siting either wind turbines or solar arrays.

The Planning Board was asked to review a 16-page “request for proposals” (RFP) draft written by Peggy Sloan of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, so that a final RFP could be advertised to hire a consultant, with the money to come from a FRCOG technical assistance grant of $5,000.

Sloan is working with Heath and will be meeting with Buckland’s planners in a few weeks, to develop wind turbine bylaws. She said the FRCOG Planning Department has received so many requests for help with zoning issues that “we don’t have the staff to work in all these towns>’

The board also voted to accept an offer of help from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center – contingent upon it waiving a 5 percent “matching share” of money from the town.

Marchese said the CEC could provide either grant money for the Planning Board to hire its own facilitator, to help with the bylaw process, or use the state’s clean energy experts to provide services needed by the board.

Marchese said he spoke with both Sloan and CEC program manager Tyler Studds and found out that the board could accept grants or offers of help from both agencies.

Marchese also recommended forming an impartial advisory committee to assist in research for the wind bylaw. He suggested that the committee have a representative from other town boards that address conservation, public health, zoning and road issues as well as residents.

On April 10 at 7 p.m., there will be a public hearing at BSE school to consider the petition articles to ban commercial wind facilities form town and to permit on-premises wind turbines for residential or business use.