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Whalerock foes to submit evidence this week

CHARLESTOWN – As negotiations continue between the town and Lawrence LeBlanc for the possible purchase of his 81-acre site overlooking Route 1, so too will the petition of LeBlanc’s Whalerock Renewable Energy LLC before the Zoning Board of Review for a special use permit to build two industrial wind turbines on the property.

The fourth hearing on the proposal, postponed three weeks ago, is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Charlestown Elementary School. The board voted on June 26 to postpone its scheduled meeting that night due to the unavailability of state Rep. Robert Craven, its legal counsel, who had a General Assembly budget hearing that night.

Negotiations for purchase of the site north of Route 1, between King’s Factory Road and East Quail Run, began about three weeks ago, said Town Council Chairman Thomas Gentz. Neither side has commented on the substance of the negotiations. While no potential purchase price has been mentioned, an item on the agenda at last week’s council meeting called for a referendum to be held and a purchase price “not to exceed $2.7 million.” Discussion was continued until the council’s next regular meeting, Aug. 13.

Previously, LeBlanc unsuccessfully tried to develop an affordable housing complex on the site. The proposal to build two 271-foot wind turbines, with a peak blade height of 410 feet, has been before town officials since 2010.

LeBlanc’s lawyer, Nicholas Gorham, completed presenting the company’s case at the last full hearing on June 19.

When testimony resumes, Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero plans to present expert witnesses detailing why the board should oppose the turbines. Ruggiero is working on the case with John Mancini, the special counsel hired by the town who is also a lawyer for a number of neighboring property owners. The neighbors’ previous attempt to stop the development was dismissed in Washington County Superior Court in March.

Mancini said a key portion of the case would involve demonstrating that property values in the surrounding areas would decrease substantially as a consequence of wind turbine development nearby.

Superior Court Associate Justice Kristin Rodgers has yet to deliver a ruling on whether the town and the owners of abutting property have standing to present witnesses after she previously dismissed their suit and another one filed by the Town Council. In the absence of a ruling, opponents are expected to move ahead with their case.

The board is also expected to schedule additional hearing dates if necessary.

The appointments of full zoning board member William F. Meyer and alternates Scott Northup, David Provancha and Amanda Magee are scheduled to expire on July 31. Gentz said their reappointments, on the agenda for last week’s council meeting, have been continued until the Whalerock hearing is completed. They will continue to serve until either reappointed or new appointments are made, Ruggiero said.