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Wellfleet Audubon to withdraw wind turbine application

The Massachusetts Audubon Society intends to withdraw its applications to the zoning board of appeals to build a 120-foot windmill at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary at 291 Route 6 in South Wellfleet but will likely turn to the planning board for help.

The zoning board is scheduled to hold a public hearing Thursday on the Audubon Society’s application for two zoning variances for the windmill, one for height and one for diameter of the blades. But the non-profit intends for the application, initially filed in June, to be withdrawn without prejudice, sanctuary director Robert Prescott said today.

The zoning board typically accepts this type of withdrawal with a motion by a board member and then an affirmative vote, zoning board secretary Christine Bates said today.

A related application for a special permit for the proposed windmill is to be withdrawn as well, according to Audubon Society attorney Michael Ford in his Oct. 15 letter to the town.

The Audubon Society will continue to pursue construction of the windmill, Prescott said. The sanctuary will most likely propose that the planning board craft a bylaw that will require a special permit instead of a variance to put up a windmill, he said.

The sanctuary will likely hold informational hearings as well, he said.

“We think it’s a viable option for the Outer Cape,” Prescott said, referring to other towns in the eastern section of the Cape where windmills are allowed. “People are catching onto this.”

The proposed windmill falls within the category of “small” or “micro” turbines for farmers, small businesses and community projects, according to the Audubon Society paperwork filed in town hall. The turbine would allow the sanctuary to increase its use of renewable energy systems and increase energy conservation, according to the paperwork.

Wind turbine opponent Lilli-Ann Green of Wellfleet welcomed the news Wednesday that the Audubon Society wants to withdraw its zoning applications. Green contends that the Audubon Society’s mission to protect wildlife including rare birds and bats directly contradicts the idea of erecting a wind turbine, which she said is a technology that kills birds and bats.

The proposed turbine is taller than what is currently allowed for structures in Wellfleet, she said, and the machine could negatively affect the health of neighbors, the price of real estate and tourism.

“I’m a very concerned citizen,” Green said. She is a member of the town energy committee but said she was speaking as an individual only.