CHARLESTOWN – Proponents of two proposed industrial wind turbines are expected to finish presenting their case before the Zoning Board of Review Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, a Rhode Island Superior Court judge has yet to make a decision about the town’s legal standing to present a case with expert testimony of its own before the zoning board, which is to decide whether to grant a special use permit that would allow Whalerock Renewable Energy LLC to build twin 272-foot turbines on an 81-acre site north of Post Road between King’s Factory Road and East Quail Run. The blades on the turbine would reach 410 feet at their highest point.
The hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Charlestown Elementary School.
The fourth in a series of hearings, which began May 21, is expected to see Nicholas Gorham, lawyer for Whalerock, finish presenting expert testimony from his witnesses.
John Mancini, a special counsel hired by the Town Council for the case who also represents unspecified abutters of the site where local developer Lawrence LeBlanc wants to build the turbines, and Peter Ruggiero, town solicitor, are pressing for their right to present witnesses to offer expert testimony of their own.
The town’s ability to present expert testimony remains unclear as both sides await a decision from Superior Court Associate Justice Kristin Rodgers, who has been handling recent Whalerock litigation.
At a June 7 court hearing, Mancini and Ruggiero argued the town is an interested party in the case, because it owns an abutting property, obtained through a tax taking, on King’s Factory Road. Gorham countered that the town is not a party to the case because Rodgers earlier this year dismissed separate lawsuits by the council and abutters trying to prevent Whalerock from proceeding to the zoning board, the last stop on the developer’s journey through the town regulatory process. While Whalerock must still meet state and federal regulations, LeBlanc is hoping to begin construction soon after town approval.
Under town ordinance, four of the zoning board’s five members must vote in the affirmative for Whalerock to gain approval.
Much of the most recent hearing on June 19 involved testimony from Jay Singer, an audiologist and University of Rhode Island professor who claimed no scientific studies have ever linked wind turbines to health problems. The opposing lawyers questioned his claims, as did many in the overwhelmingly anti-turbine audience of about 200.
The board also later heard testimony from Michael Lenihan, a Westerly real estate appraiser, who said the turbines would not likely affect real estate values in the area.
If a fifth session is needed, the board has it scheduled for July 17 at Charlestown Elementary School.
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