The Kingston Zoning Board of Appeals Wednesday night found no fault with the special permit process or the issuance of building permits for the Independence and O’Donnell wind turbines.
In doing so, the board upheld the decision by Building Commissioner Paul Armstrong to deny separate requests for cease and desist orders for the four wind turbines.
The ZBA decision to deny the request to overturn his ruling was unanimous. Chairman John Haas said Armstrong made the appropriate decision regarding the two projects that were properly vetted and approved based on the town’s zoning bylaws.
At the same time, however, he said the attorney for the residents who requested the cease and desist orders raised valid points about the level of public participation that should be allowed for projects of this magnitude.
“I believe that the process could be improved,” he said. “I think the process should include more public review.”
During the continued public hearing, attorney Christopher Senie, representing the residents, and Town Counsel Jay Talerman exchanged legal arguments about the timeliness of the residents’ appeal and notice requirements to the town clerk and the Attorney General’s office before the ZBA’s vote to support Armstrong’s decision.
Talerman argued that the by-right zoning allowed by the town does not have the same notice requirements as special-permit zoning and that despite Senie’s arguments, the projects were properly noticed.
Talerman also argued that there’s a difference between an appeal, which must be filed within 30 days of the issuance of a building permit, and an enforcement request, which may be appealed within six years.
“You can only challenge site plan review through an appeal during those 30 days,” Talerman said.
Senie argued that the residents had no way of knowing that the site plan process that was followed was faulty, which would have triggered the 30 days. The appeal, therefore, he argued, is timely, falling within the six-year timeframe.
“How do these neighbors here know that the turbines that they’re seeing in their neighborhood might have been given a building permit but the site plan approval might have been faulty for notice provisions?” he said.
Once the attorneys made their arguments, the board was quick to vote. After the meeting, Talerman told Senie that he plans to write a decision for the ZBA to review and potentially approve at its next meeting Aug. 15. A written decision isn’t required until Sept. 7.
After the ZBA approves the written decision and it’s filed with the town clerk, Senie has 20 days to appeal the ZBA’s decision. Senie said he will have to confer with his clients after he has reviewed the decision before deciding whether to appeal.
One of his clients, Country Club Way resident Tim Dwyer, said he’s obviously disappointed by the board’s decision. He said reading the preliminary results of the sound assessment that’s to be conducted by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center in response to residents’ complaints would help him decide what the next step should be.
“At the end of the day, our goal is to protect the residents of Kingston from the adverse effects of the wind turbines to the extent they exist,” he said.