Smaller Shelburne wind farm plan submitted; Planning Board not sure how it will affect moratorium process
SHELBURNE – A smaller Mount Massaemet Windfarm proposal has been submitted to the town – ahead of a proposed windmill moratorium sought by the Planning Board. The Planning Board wants residents to approve a yearlong moratorium on wind turbine proposals, whether a small-scale residential windmill or a commercial project at the annual town meeting.
Ironically, it was an earlier Massaemet eight-turbine commercial project that triggered the drive for a moratorium while the town drafts new bylaws to regulate windmills.
The planners supported the moratorium idea Tuesday night – before they learned that Frederick D. Field of Mount Massaemet Windfarm Inc. had already submitted another wind proposal to the Zoning Board of Appeals.
When reached by telephone Thursday, Field said his new plan calls for four wind turbines, with each able to produce 1.5 megawatts of electricity.
He said the turbines in the latest plan are 328 feet tall – roughly two-thirds the height of the turbines in last fall’s proposal, which were about 480 feet high.
He said three turbines would be installed on land owned by the Gould family and one would be sited on land owned by the Dole family. He said they would be situated to the east of the mountain and below the ridgeline, in the Patten Hill section of Shelburne. The substation would be located on Field’s land.
He said his application was 32 pages long.
“Let’s just see what happens in the first three or four (ZBA) meetings before I talk about it,” said Field.
According to Town Clerk Beverly Neeley, the application from Field came via Federal Express on Monday. The Planning Board’s first chance to discuss the new proposal was Thursday night.
On Thursday morning, Planning Board Chairman V. Matt Marchese said he was trying to find out how this unexpected event will affect the moratorium process.
Marchese had planned to ask selectmen next week to include the moratorium request on the annual town meeting agenda. The vote had three contingencies: that the proposed article get reviewed by the town’s lawyer; that it be placed on the warrant immediately ahead of a petitioned article asking for an outright ban on commercial- scale wind turbines but allowing backyard windmills, and that both articles be scheduled to come up during town meeting “as early as possible” to get the maximum participation from voters.
The Planning Board may also ask the moderator to permit discussion of both the ban and the moratorium at the same time, since support of the ban would render moot any vote for a moratorium.
“When we made these decisions, we were not aware that Mr. Field had already submitted another proposal,” Marchese said Thursday afternoon. “Based on this new information, we’re going to have to sort out what this means for the moratorium.”
A public hearing has already been scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School, to discuss the ban.
Because Field withdrew the earlier Mount Massaemet wind farm proposal “without prejudice” last fall, he was legally allowed to resubmit another special permit application to the Zoning Board of Appeals at any time. But if a moratorium is approved, it would prevent anyone – including Field – from applying for a wind turbine special permit until the moratorium period expired.
However, now that Field has submitted a new application, both the Planning and Zoning boards are trying to determine whether that special permit process can go forward.
Before this new submission, Marchese said there was concern by Planning Board members that enacting a moratorium could give Field “legal standing” to sue the town if a new wind turbine special permit application was declined during the moratorium. However, the town’s lawyer, Donna MacNicol, told Marchese the moratorium would not put the town at any additional “legal risk.”
Residential and commercial wind turbine permit applications would be put on hold, because the town has no setback requirements or other permitting criteria developed for even small-scale wind turbines.
To be approved, the moratorium and the residents’ petitioned warrant article each requires a two-thirds majority town vote; they are also subject to review by the Attorney General’s office.
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