CHARLESTOWN – The developer of the much-litigated site of a proposed wind energy plant will be going to court Monday morning in a different role: as lessee of the 81-acre parcel off King’s Factory Road and Route 1.
Lawrence LeBlanc, owner of Whalerock Renewable Energy, LLC, which seeks to develop two wind turbines on the property, sold the land on the final day of 2012 to N.I.N., incorporated in Rhode Island but owned by James R. Burrows of Brooklyn, Conn. Under terms of the sale, Leblanc would lease the property back should the wind project become operational, paying N.I.N. 50 percent of the net income generated for 25 years.
In the meantime, Whalerock and the Town of Charlestown are due in Washington County Superior Court Monday at 9:30 a.m. as Justice Kristin E. Rodgers will hear the latest legal proceeding in LeBlanc’s long battle against town officials to develop the property, once proposed as the site of an affordable housing complex.
Nicholas Gorham, LeBlanc’s lawyer, is requesting the right to seek a special use permit from the town Zoning Board of Review that would allow him to build on the site. The town is maintaining the primacy of the Planning Commission, which opposes the project, while Gorham maintains the commission can only act as an advisory body and has no power in the matter.
Gorham said the wind turbine project is moving forward with the help of N.I.N., which has held a minority interest in Whalerock.
“It means the wind turbine project is absolutely on course,” he said. “Larry kept a 1 percent interest in N.I.N., and the agreements between he and Whalerock remain in full force.”
In response to rumors that an affordable housing proposal may be planned for land not used for the wind project, Gorham said, “The only plan I have is to build wind turbines.” He hopes construction can begin this year once the project gains zoning approval and regulatory approval from the state and National Grid.
The agreement also includes a breakup clause, which can be exercised for a one-time payment of $500,000.
John Kenyon, lawyer for Burrows and N.I.N., could not be reached for comment.
Gorham is hoping to win approval in court Monday to go ahead and seek the special use permit from the zoning board.
“We’re just asking to allow the zoning board to proceed with the application process without interference from the Planning Commission, who’s already weighed in with an advisory opinion,” he said.
The Town Council is mounting a legal challenge against the zoners as part of a complicated struggle that began in September 2010, when Town Planner Ashley Hahn determined that Whalerock’s application was complete. However, two months later, Interim Town Planner Jane Weidman, filling in while Hahn was on maternity leave, determined the application was incomplete, and then-Building/Zoning Official John Matuza froze the application. The zoning board reaffirmed in 2011 that the application was complete, prompting a council appeal. Superior Court Justice Judith Savage remanded the decision back to the zoning board, which again affirmed the application’s complete status in November 2012.
“It’s the government appealing government about government. It’s a colossal waste of money,” Gorham said.
The legal proceedings have put Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero in the unusual position of arguing the application is incomplete after previously arguing the application was complete, said Gorham. In the fall of 2010, he said, Ruggiero had argued the application was complete when a group of neighbors sued the then-council, which supported the project, in an effort to stop it.
“Now he’s representing a new council that’s opposed to the wind project and doing a 180-degree turn. This council will stop at nothing to stop this project,” Gorham said.
Ruggiero, as is his custom on active legal proceedings involving the town, refused to comment.
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