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Shelburne puts wind farm ban, moratorium back-to-back on meeting agenda

SHELBURNE – Selectmen have placed on the annual town meeting agenda the Planning Board’s call for a year-long moratorium on all windmills, while the planners develop a zoning bylaw for siting wind turbines.

But that moratorium won’t affect a four-turbine, Mount Massaemet Windfarm Inc. plan, that was submitted for a special permit application to the ZBA one day ahead of the Planning Board’s moratorium vote.

However, a series of articles, submitted by 46 voters who want to ban commercial-scale wind farms, means the special permit process cannot go forward for now – at least, not until an annual town meeting vote. If the town defeats the ban, the Massaemet Windfarm would be addressed by the Zoning Board of Appeals through the current special permit process. But, if the ban is approved by both town meeting and by the state attorney general, the commercial-scale project would not be allowed within town borders.

On Monday night, selectmen agreed to put the moratorium and articles intended to ban commercial-scale wind turbines “back-to-back,” to allow for presentations of both before the articles are voted on.

They also agreed to move the articles up, into the middle of the warrant, to avoid a “midnight vote,” as happened in 2008, after many residents had already left the meeting.

Selectmen also decided that both the Planning Board and ZBA need to have ready access to lawyers, while the Planning Board develops a wind bylaw and the ZBA faces another possible special permit hearing for the Mount Massaemet project.

Selectmen have added $2,200 to the town’s $7,300 legal expense account for the coming fiscal year. Also, Chairman John Payne suggested the Planning Board and ZBA be allowed to spend up to $500 for legal advice without having to go to the selectmen’s chairman for approval first. If they used up that funding, they would have to come back to selectmen for additional spending approval.

Payne said the rule requiring boards to get selectmen’s approval for all calls to the town’s $100-per-hour lawyer were set up at a time when legal expenditures for town boards were around $15,000 per year. He said he hoped these boards would use that money frugally and keep a record of what was spent.

Planning Board Chairman V. Matt Marchese also got selectmen’s permission to hire the town’s lawyer, Donna MacNicol, to appear at Tuesday’s public hearing regarding residents’ articles to limit wind-turbine development to home or business use.

A night before the public hearing, Marchese said a lawyer for the residents’ group, Thomas Lesser of Lesser, Newman & Nasser, LLP, was to speak on behalf of the proposed commercial windmill ban.

“I don’t know how we cannot have Donna there,” agreed Selectman Joseph Judd. “We have not dealt with a situation of this magnitude – of the petitioners bringing legal counsel in,” he said.

“I would hate to see (the Planning Board) at a disadvantage, and I’m afraid they might be,” Judd added.