May 22, 2012

ZBA to hear turbine proposal; Shelburne board moves forward

By DIANE BRONCACCIO, Recorder staff | The Recorder | | 22 May 2012

SHELBURNE – The Zoning Board of Appeals is going ahead with a scheduled public hearing for a wind turbine proposal for Mount Massaemet, on Thursday night, beginning at 8 p.m. at the Buckland Shelburne Elementary School.

This is despite the town’s year-long moratorium on wind turbines, a recent ban on commercial-scale wind turbines, and a recent determination by the Planning Board that a subdivision plan for the project was improperly filed.

The application for this new, smaller wind farm was submitted on April 2, and state law requires the ZBA to hold a public hearing within 65 days of the application date.

The public hearing is also the first opportunity for the applicant, Frederick D. Field of Brimfield, to give a presentation of the project, and for the ZBA to ask questions about it. Other boards that could weigh-in on the proposal, such as the Board of Health, Planning Board and Conservation Commission, may also give their reviews at the hearing.

The proposed wind farm has taken several twists since the first, eight-turbine version was proposed last fall. The first proposal was to site a 20megawatt facility on land owned by four farming families in the Patten Hill district, but that plan was withdrawn “without prejudice” during a public hearing in November, after criticism was voiced that the application lacked specifics.

Then in late March, a residents’ petition was submitted for an annual town meeting article, seeking a ban on all commercial-scale wind turbines. A public hearing had already been posted for the article when Field re-submitted a proposal for a 6megawatt, four-turbine project; this would mean that the new wind farm plan would not be permitted in town, if the ban passed.

However, a day before the May 1 annual town meeting, Field filed a subdivision plan for the turbines, which, if accepted by the Planning Board, would “grandfather” the old zoning bylaws for the wind project. The announcement at town meeting – that the wind ban might not apply to the earlier-submitted project – led to a 195-57 vote in favor of the commercial wind ban.

A week later, the Planning Board rejected the subdivision plan because of filing errors made by the developer. For now, the commercial wind ban is in effect, unless the state attorney general’s office doesn’t ratify the town’s vote.

According to Town Clerk Beverly Neeley, the town has up to 30 days to file its annual town meeting votes with the state, and the attorney general has up to 60 days to review the articles.

Meanwhile the Zoning Board is going ahead with its review, in case the project eventually does escape the new windmill ban.

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