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Abuttor appeals approvals for Jericho wind farm

BERLIN – An abutting landowner has appealed both the zoning and planning board decisions allowing Jericho Power to install three wind turbines on Jericho Mountain.

Berlin Community Development Director Pamela Laflamme said the zoning board will meet on March 6 to consider the two petitions.

Back in 2009, Jericho Power received site plan approval from the planning board to construct four wind turbines no higher than 400 feet on Jericho Mountain. At the same time, the company received a variance and special exception from the zoning board to construct up to four wind turbines at 400 feet and a fifth turbine at 500 feet.

This January, Jericho Power asked the planning board to amend its site plan to allow it to install three 500-foot turbines. The company also asked the zoning board to amend its variance to allow for three 500-foot turbines. Both amendments were approved.

Allen Bouthillier of Lancaster is asking the zoning board to reverse the Jan. 8 planning board decision as well as reconsider its own Jan. 9 decision. Bouthillier owns 850 acres that abuts the 135-acre site where Jericho Power wants to locate its wind turbines. In his petitions, Bouthillier argues the increased number of higher turbines with wider wingspan will adversely affect his ability to develop a wind farm on his own property. He said the project does not qualify for a variance or special exception from the zoning ordinance’s height and performance standards.

Specifically, Bouthillier said the turbines will be close to his property line, creating a risk they could fall and injure people or structures on his property. He said the higher turbines will throw ice onto his land, posing a risk to people. And Bouthillier said he is concerned the increased height and wind span will cause wind turbulence that will decrease the efficiency of his planned wind farm. He noted he requested the planning board delay its decision for a month to allow the completion of a wind study he has underway and to negotiate with Jericho Power.

Bouthillier said both the zoning and planning boards declined to consider whether the increased height and wingspan of the three turbines would adversely affect his economic interests and the value of his land.

He also argues Jericho Power did not prove the project would benefit the public interest or that denial of the variance would create an unnecessary hardship for the company as required under statute.

Laflamme said by state statute the zoning board will first decide if it wants to hear the appeal of its decision. If the board grants the request, it will set a date for the appeal. If the zoning board declines to hear the appeal, then Bouthillier can appeal to Superior Court.

After ruling on the zoning appeal, the zoning board will hear the planning board appeal. Laflamme said that is a typical appeal process in which both sides can present evidence and testimony is taken. She said City Attorney Chris Boldt will represent the planning board in that appeal. Attorney Sandra Cabrera of Waystack and Frizzell represents Bouthillier.

Jericho Power, a subsidiary of Palmer Management Corporation of Cohasset, has an agreement to develop three wind turbines on the Jericho Mountain site owned by David Brooks of Jericho Mountain Wind Company. Brook purchased the land from Christian Loranger, who put three small wind turbines on the site in 2006. Those turbines have been removed.

The total capacity of the Jericho Power project has been placed at between 4.95 to 8.55 megawatts.

Jericho Power sought and received a declaratory ruling from the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee that the project will not have to go before that committee for review.

Representing Jericho Wind, Gordon and Lindsay Deane said they hope to get construction underway this summer. To quality for a federal Production Tax Credit, the Deanes said substantial construction must take place in 2013.