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Council was right on land vote  

Credit:  The Westerly Sun | August 30, 2013 | www.thewesterlysun.com ~~

The deed has been done. The Town of Charlestown has ended the saga of the Whalerock project by buying the 75 acres for which it was destined.

The purchase of the land that borders King’s Factory Road and East Quail Run now eliminates the possibility that wind turbines will be built on the site. It was that fear and the resolve of residents that held up the plans of a developer to place wind turbines on the property and led to a Town Council decision on Aug. 22 to use open space funds for the $2.1 million purchase.

The purchase certainly satisfies the neighbors who opposed turbines and preserves a valuable piece of property for future generations.

The sale to the town would also preserve valuable wildlife and migratory bird habitat, benefit a fragile watershed, and most of all, end the costly legal wrangling that has been going on since developer Larry LeBlanc sought to build an affordable housing project on the property. When that proposal was rejected, LeBlanc, through his company, Whalerock Renewable Energy LLC, presented a proposal in 2010 to build two 410-foot wind turbines.

The Town Council at the time supported the project, but the council’s leadership changed after the 2010 election, and LeBlanc and the new council have been arguing over the project ever since.

The council said that it would have wanted to schedule a referendum on the purchase but that it was pressured to make a decision by Aug. 27. That did not leave enough time to plan and hold such a vote. It seems that the owner – a Connecticut entity that would have leased the land back to Whalerock – was just as eager to end the ordeal.

The council was well within its authority to make the purchase using open space funds and we believe it was the right decision. The council was elected by taxpayers, and taxpayers approved the bond money. We have to agree with Planning Commission Chairwoman Ruth Platner, who suggested that a referendum had already taken place when the voters approved the original open space bond.

Seven local and state conservation groups presented opinions, all of which favored the land purchase. An overwhelming majority of residents said they also wanted the town to buy the land and end the wind turbine battle.

One would think that a resolution to the issue would have been welcomed, but in Charlestown, where the color of a sunset can generate an argument, nothing is quite so easy.

The council has to have the ability to make decisions, sometimes big decisions, without seeking a referendum on everything that comes before it. That is why the council holds public hearings and affords people the opportunity to voice their concerns.

Everyone knew the immediacy that was required, and perhaps given a different set of circumstances, things might have been different. We are grateful that Charlestown can now put this issue to rest.

Source:  The Westerly Sun | August 30, 2013 | www.thewesterlysun.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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