Shelburne, MA- Voters had their say at the May 1 annual town meeting on three bylaw articles to ban large scale industrial wind, and in a separate action, place a moratorium for one year on all size wind energy projects. But immediately before the discussion of the articles, town attorney Donna MacNicol announced that a subdivision plan had been submitted to the town the day before. According to MacNicol, that would leave the application for four industrial wind turbines, now in front of the town, unaffected by the town’s vote. The subdivision plan must be approved by the town’s Planning Board.
The first three articles submitted by 46 of the town’s residents were an attempt to stop all large scale wind as well as the project for four 389 foot industrial turbines from being built on Mt. Massaemet that overlooks Shelburne Falls, a popular tourist destination. The petitioners appealed to the residents to let their votes be an indication of how the town feels about the turbines. All three articles passed. The first by an 84% margin, the next two by 77%. The moratorium was voted in unanimously. The meeting was attended by about 300 Shelburne voters, and residents from other towns filled the balcony of the hall.
If the Planning Board approves the subdivision, the other step for the wind application is to go before the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals who will be faced with many questions about wind turbines. The zoning bylaws that will apply to the Field proposal are considered by many to be too vague to give sufficient guidance to the Board.
The petitioners of the articles for the ban say that it’s too soon to know all of the avenues open to them at this time, but are pleased with the large voter turnout and the outcome of the vote.
According to Mike Parry, a supporter of the ban, “Our first article passed by an 84% margin. If it had not been so late in the evening, with people leaving the meeting, we don’t know if the next two articles would have had the same result. But the next two passed by 77%. I don’t see how there can be any question at this point about how the town feels about large scale wind in our town. The voters had their say, and want to protect our town, our health and the environment.”
Nancy Holland of Shelburne expressed frustration with the actions of the developer.
“Mr. Field muddied the waters at the 11th hour last Friday night when he offered to withdraw his application if the ban failed. Then on the following Monday, one day before the vote, he made a move to make sure that the voters wishes would not apply to him. Of course he will do anything at this point to make sure that his option to build who knows how many turbines on Mt. Massaemet is kept open. There are millions of dollars in subsidies at stake with a project like this. They kept saying they wanted to see how the town feels. Is there any question after this vote? They also said wanted time to study what their options are for wind on that mountain. Well, as far as I’m concerned, if they are sincere about all of that, they should withdraw that application. Right now, for industrial wind, it looks like it’s done deal in our town. Even though we said it loud and clear that we want to put a hold on them.”
Lamia Holland, of neighboring Buckland couldn’t vote on the articles, but lives less than 1 ½ miles from the site of the proposal. “I think I speak for many residents of my town. We are very grateful to the voters of Shelburne for coming out so strongly in support of the ban and the moratorium. I thought wind turbines would look beautiful on the mountain, but now many of us have serious doubts about them for our towns. I hope that Shelburne is able to move forward with the wishes of the townspeople, even though the developer seems to have won at the game of legal maneuvering. I hope that democracy is what wins in the end.”