SHELBURNE – While the past year has brought heated discussion regarding Don Field’s application to build a wind farm on Mt.Massaemet, the wind shifted at the Zoning Board of Appeals’ hearing on Thursday, May 24 – and the heat was aimed not at Field, but at the ZBA.
Knowing that former Shelburne resident and current landowner Field had withdrawn his four 1.5-megawatt turbine wind farm application in writing two days earlier at Town Clerk Beverly Neeley’s office, the ZBA decided to accept the withdrawal “without prejudice” (which allows Field to reapply anytime), before the public hearing started.
That decision was followed by a decision to close the public hearing, angering some 30-plus area residents in attendance.
ZBA Chair Joe Palmeri called seven people out of order during the meeting.
Sue Fraser Frankewicz of Shelburne objected that a public hearing was posted, only to have it open and close without public discussion. Judith Truesdell of Shelburne showed a copy of ZBA procedure, saying it specifies that a withdrawal can be accepted without prejudice only if the withdrawal is prior to the posting of the hearing or “if there is a good reason.”
“I have yet to hear a good reason,” said Truesdell.
Palmeri answered that the reason was that Field was “no longer willing to fight” to erect wind turbines on Mt. Massaemet. Field did not speak during the meeting.
Many in attendance expressed the thought that the issue was not whether or not the withdrawal would be accepted, but if it were to be accepted with or without prejudice. Those who spoke in the audience seemed to prefer the with-prejudice option.
Palmeri explained that was a myth, saying there is no such thing as accepting a withdrawn application “with prejudice,” noting that a withdrawal is clearly to be accepted without prejudice. Had the application not been subsequently withdrawn, the application would have – as was scheduled before the last-minute withdrawal – to a public hearing, when it would have been accepted or rejected.
Palmeri called it “ridiculous” to hold a hearing for a withdrawn application.
“You should stop having developers kick you around with all these frivolous applications,” said Shelburne resident Dave Engle to Palmeri. “I disagree with town counsel [Donna MacNicol] that there is no way around this.”
Buckland resident Jan Voorhis wanted Palmeri to ask Field not to come back with an application here, a request Palmeri declined. Likewise, Ray Hartman of Shelburne wanted Field to promise not to come back. He added that the ZBA could decide not to accept the withdrawal, so that the public could discuss the merits of the application during the meeting.
“I have spent eight to 10 hours in the past two days, away from my business, working on this issue,” Palmeri said. “We have altogether spent hundreds of hours on the subject. How much longer do you want to beat this dead horse?”
ZBA member John Taylor, who expressed his thought that the audience was being hostile, said that there was no “18,000-point review” to rate applications, and that if residents want something like that, they should draft a bylaw for it.
“You say the door is still open, but how long do you want to keep it open? The door is closed,” said Taylor.
Palmeri said that, according to MacNicol, unless the Attorney General overturns the one-year ban on commercial wind projects approved by annual town meeting voters, Field would not be able to obtain approval for any commercial wind projects in Shelburne and any wind project that is forthcoming will be subject to the year-long moratorium.
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