ANTRIM – A public hearing on whether a wind energy facility should get approval from a state committee has been delayed.
The week-long hearing was scheduled to begin today to determine whether the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee would certify a plan by Antrim Wind Energy to build 10 wind turbines, each roughly 500 feet, on Tuttle Hill.
The hearing has been moved to late October.
The Site Evaluation Committee, which oversees large-scale energy facility projects, took over jurisdiction of the 30-megawatt project from the town of Antrim last year.
In preparation for the hearing, the committee has spent the past several months collecting information from Antrim Wind Energy, as well as dozens of legal briefs and letters from interested parties, including town residents and local environmental groups.
But the Counsel for the Public, an attorney appointed by the committee to represent the public’s interest, recently requested more time to evaluate the project.
The town’s selectmen and many residents support the wind farm, citing economic benefits. But several residents, particularly those who live near the Tuttle Hill area, have come out against the project, with noise, safety, health and environmental concerns.
One of the questions facing the Site Evaluation Committee was whether the committee had the authority to subdivide the town’s land, something the committee has never been asked to do before, said Michael J. Iacopino, attorney for the committee.
Antrim Wind Energy’s application requests a subdivision of the approximately 1,850 acres of privately leased land where the wind facility is proposed. The subdivided piece would house a substation, to be owned and operated by Public Service New Hampshire, according to Site Evaluation Committee documents.
The subdivision does not meet the planning board’s regulations, and in July the board filed a legal brief with the committee defending its role as the sole authority over land use regulations in Antrim.
But at a hearing last week, the committee decided its power can preempt the authority of the town, with certain limitations, Iacopino said.
Those limitations will be nailed down at a separate public hearing, during which the committee will go through the town’s subdivision regulations to determine which powers will be left to the town, Iacopino said. The date of that hearing has not been set.
A final decision from the Site Evaluation Committee was expected in October, and if the facility was certified then, Antrim Wind Energy expected construction to be finished by the end of September 2014, according to committee documents.
Both of those timelines now will be pushed back at least a few months, John M. Soininen, project manager for Antrim Wind, said.
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