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Whalerock Renewable Energy hearing continues Wednesday

CHARLESTOWN – Representatives of Whalerock Renewable Energy LLC on Wednesday will continue presenting their case for a special use permit that would allow them to build two 410-foot industrial wind turbines.

The second session of a hearing on the company’s petition before the Zoning Board of Review will be held at 7 p.m. at Charlestown Elementary School.

Developer Lawrence LeBlanc is proposing to build the two turbines on an 81-acre site, on which he previously tried to build an affordable housing complex, north of Route 1 between King’s Factory Road and East Quail Run. While the Town Council has enacted a moratorium on wind turbine development, turbines can be constructed under a special use permit.

The much-anticipated hearing began May 21 before more than 300 people, in a three-hour session that featured legal skirmishes between Nicholas Gorham, lawyer for Whalerock, and representatives of those opposed to the project: Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero and John Mancini, who was recently hired by the town as a special counsel for the case. Mancini also represents some of the neighboring property owners who have opposed the turbine proposal since it began making its way through the town’s regulatory process three years ago.

Wednesday’s hearing is expected to resume with Michael Carlino, Whalerock project manager and LeBlanc’s son-in-law, continuing to present witnesses supporting the proposal and answering questions from board members.

If the Whalerock presentation is complete, Ruggiero and Mancini will have an opportunity to question the witnesses, and members of the public will have the opportunity to comment.

The zoning board has already scheduled a third night of testimony for June 19, with additional dates to be added if necessary.

A number of legal issues sprouted up from the May 21 hearing, most notably the standing of the council and a group of 30 adjacent property owners who filed suit in R.I. Superior Court to halt the project. Associate Justice Kristin Rodgers, in a ruling two months ago, rejected the suits and established a June 14 deadline for a decision on a special use permit. Gorham and Robert Craven, the zoning board’s legal counsel, sought a ruling from Rodgers on the legality of continuing the hearing beyond that date.

Ruggiero argued that because the town owns one of the abutting properties, it should have legal standing to pursue the case.