In a ruling released recently, the Orleans Superior Court determined that efforts by The Lowell Select Board to avoid holding a special meeting to revisit an article against the Lowell Wind Project was illegal. Ed Wesolow, represented by his attorney, Paul Gillies of Tarrant, Gillies, Merriman & Richardson appealed that decision.
The Article (Article 8) read as follows:
“Shall the voters of the Town of Lowell express their opposition to the G.M.P. and Velco Wind Project, given that this project has destroyed federally protected stream headwaters, destroyed the ridge line; will cause clinical depression and/or stress for many of those that live around it;
will be an eyesore that curtails tourism, destroys the area we call “a national treasure”; threatens to turn the town into a slum town by depressing real estate values, future investments and development; raises electric rates, noise levels, and other inherent stressors that divide families in a community; exports huge sums of money out of the USA; may not even solve the problem of Carbon emissions; allows G.M.P. and Velco to not pay the town as much as promised, if at all, if the project does not go as well as they expected; and in the long run will increase the tax burden on the people of the town it was supposed to benefit?”
At Town Meeting, a motion to pass over Article 8 succeeded. Within 30 days of that vote, petitioners filed a new petition asking for reconsideration of the passed-over article. The Selectboard refused to warn a special meeting.
Filed in a motion to the court Gillies states “The facts in this case are undisputed. As alleged in the complaint and expressly noted in the meeting minutes, the petition had the required number of legal signatures and was filed within the requisite 30 days. This should have caused the board to warn a special meeting, a ministerial function” Gillies went on to say “rejecting the petition and failing to warn a special meeting is defendants blatant attempt to escape their duties as a Selectboard. The Selectboard’s refusal to grant the special meeting was arbitrary and unfounded in law.”
Judge Howard VanBenthuysen ruled in favor of Wesolow. In the ruling, Judge VanBenthuysen ruled that by allowing a motion to “pass over” to be in effect indefinitely, “The Select Board could, in theory, avoid reconsideration petitions altogether by passing over disfavored articles, instead of voting on them. Such a result cannot be correct.”
The ruling stated, “The court finds that the effect of the “pass over” motion is that of a denial of the article and that a motion to reconsider is therefore appropriate. The Select Board’s decision not to decide on the article is, in and of itself, a decision.”
Wesolow concluded. “Now the turbines are running, some homes have been destroyed and other negative impacts are coming true, maybe we can have the open debate we should have had in the first place. We can vote armed with more of the facts and not just a vote on an over sold rosey one side of the picture.”