CHARLESTOWN – The newly installed Town Council members may have had a relatively brief first meeting Monday night, but they will soon have plenty on their plate.
Not long after the five council members were sworn in by state Rep. Donna Walsh, D-Charles town, and President Thomas B. Gentz and Vice President Paula Ann Andersen had accepted their leadership positions, the members retreated into a 15-minute executive session to discuss the proposed Whalerock wind turbine development.
After returning to the council chambers, they voted unanimously to authorize Town Solicitor Peter Ruggerio to file an appeal of the Zoning Board of Review’s decision last week allowing the plan to go forward.
Last Tuesday, the zoning committee, sitting as an appeal board, reaffirmed its January 2011 decision verifying that Whalerock Renewable Energy LLC had completed the necessary paperwork to proceed with its application and seek a special use permit allowing construction of two wind turbines on an 81-acre site between King’s Factory Road and East Quail Run. The council and a group of neighboring residents had appealed the 2011 decision in Superior Court, and Associate Justice Judith Savage had remanded it for clarification. The decision to continue the court fight against Whalerock is a continuation of the previous council’s stance, Gentz said. “We’re siding with the neighbors who don’t think it belongs here,” he said.
Councilor Daniel B. Slattery, the council’s liaison to the Zoning Board, attended last week’s meeting and expressed his disappointment that it didn’t reopen the public hearing on Whalerock before taking its vote.
“I had hoped the board would’ve evaluated its position, based on the judge sending it back. It would’ve been nice to have let the people speak,” he said.
Also on Monday, Gentz said the council will hold a work session Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. to meet with neighbors of Copar Quarries, just across the town line in Westerly. Residents from both towns last week brought complaints about noise, air quality, blasting and well pollution to the council.
Gentz encouraged those who plan to attend the meeting to bring any evidence of problems, such as documents, notices or bills, to Interim Town Administrator Patricia Anderson or Town Clerk Amy Rose Weinreich before to the meeting or to the meeting that night.
“I’m not sure what jurisdiction we have, other than to side with the neighbors up there,” he said. The Westerly Zoning Board of Review is currently considering Copar’s appeal of an August cease-and-desist order issued by Zoning Officer Elizabeth Burdick after she cited it for operating beyond its permit area.
The council also voted to discuss the search for a new town administrator with the ad hoc search committee in January.
Gentz, Slattery and Lisa A. DiBello, who were re-elected Nov. 6, and the newly elected Andersen and George C. Tremblay, were sworn in for new two-year terms. Weinreich then read Question 10, one of four town charter changes approved by the voters two weeks ago, which changed the selection process for the president and vice president.
As was the case two years ago, Gentz, as the leading vote-getter in the election, was asked by Weinreich if he wished to take the presidency, and answered, “Yes, I do.”
Under the newly revised charter, instead of holding an election among the members for vice president, Andersen, the second highest vote-getter, was granted the right of first refusal for the vice presidency. Asked if she wished to serve, Andersen, too, answered “Yes, I do.”
She was the only Democrat elected to the council. The slate backed by the Charlestown Citizens Alliance now holds a three-vote majority – Gentz, Slattery and Tremblay. DiBello ran as an unaffiliated candidate.
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