CHARLESTOWN – Thanks to a delay in the Rhode Island House of Representatives’ deliberations on the state budget, opponents of two wind turbines proposed here will have to wait three weeks to present their case before the town Zoning Board of Review.
Citing the unavailability of Robert Craven, the board’s legal counsel and a state representative, the zoning board unanimously voted to postpone Wednesday night’s hearing on Whalerock Renewable Energy’s request for a special use permit. The company is seeking to build two 271-foot wind turbines on an 81-acre site north of Route 1 between King’s Factory Road and East Quail Run. The blades on the turbines would reach up to 410 feet.
The House budget session was extended into early evening, with Craven informing lawyers and board members he would be unable to get to Charlestown Elementary School by the 6:30 p.m. scheduled starting time.
“We did not want to proceed without our legal adviser present,” said Michael Rzewuski, zoning board chairman.
The fourth session of the Whalerock hearing will now take place Wednesday, July 17, at 6:30 p.m. at the school. The board had scheduled that date after last week’s session.
When the hearing resumes, John Mancini, the lawyer for neighbors opposed to the project, plans to present his witnesses. He is also acting as special counsel representing the Town Council. Nicholas Gorham, lawyer for Whalerock developer Lawrence LeBlanc, finished presenting his side’s testimony on June 19.
Mancini said he had planned to present expert testimony questioning the proposed turbines’ safety and their effect on property values in the area. His case would have extended into the July 17 meeting, he said, because a key witness from Chicago was not available Wednesday night.
“We want to focus the board on understanding what this is all about. We think it will have a detrimental value on property values,” he said.
Property values were a major bone of contention at last week’s hearing, when Michael Lenihan, a Westerly real estate appraiser, said property values in the area were not likely to be affected by the turbines.
Mancini said he represents most of the nearby residents who had sued the zoning board in an effort to halt the turbine proposal before it reached the zoning board, the final step in the local permitting process. That suit and another one filed by the council were dismissed by a Superior Court judge earlier this year.
“It’s a large group, almost everybody within the 200-foot abutters’ zone; anybody who wants standing,” he said.
Mancini and Peter Ruggiero, town solicitor, are proceeding with the case while awaiting a ruling from Superior Court Associate Justice Kristin Rodgers on the town’s standing to present testimony. They argue that the town’s ownership of a King’s Factory Road lot, through a tax taking, qualifies it as an interested party in the case. Gorham contends that the dismissal of the council’s suit leaves the town without standing to intervene.
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