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Developer yanks application for wind project in Peru

PERU – A developer has pulled the plug on plans to build an industrial wind farm in town – at least for now.

Lightship Energy LLC, based in Acton, last week withdrew its application with the Zoning Board of Appeals.

“The submitted application is dead, essentially,” ZBA member Samuel Haupt told The Eagle. “The applicant has the legal right to resubmit and has indicated an intention to do so.”

The company cited anticipated changes in turbine regulations from the state as its reason for withdrawing the application. It also faced potential legal challenges from neighbors and mounting opposition in the community.

Lightship’s application, filed last fall, sought a special permit exempting it from town noise bylaws in pursuit of plans to build five, 500-foot turbines between Haskell and Garnet Hills off Curtin Road. It also caused a deep divide in the small town of 847.

Proponents of the project pointed to the nationwide need for clean, renewable energy and the potential tax revenue it could bring the town. The Fire Department hosted informational meetings about the project.

But opponents believed noise and vibrations caused by the company’s turbines could cause ill health effects for some living near the structures – like vertigo, sleeping problems, nausea and more. Roughly 70 homes are located inside a mile of Lightship’s desired build site.

A state report conducted in 2012 on the health impacts of living near wind turbines found no conclusive evidence of such claims.

Opponents also have claimed that Lightship no longer has standing to pursue the development because it technically was dissolved by court order last June for failing to file three years of annual reports.

Susan Masino, a member of opposition group Peru Concerned Citizens, hailed the “great news” that Lightship had withdrawn its application.

“The project is no longer going forward and we have a clear path to adjust our bylaws, which has been the goal for the past year anyway,” Masino said.

The group led several failed efforts to strengthen the town’s bylaws against industrial-scale wind energy and, later, to impose a two-year moratorium on any industrial wind project.

Whether the developer follows through with another application depends on new state-level regulations of such turbines, expected to hit the books late this year or early 2015, Haupt said.

Any new regulation could impact the plans. If the impact proves slight or nonexistent, Lightship could file a similar or slightly retooled application. Changes that are more substantial, however, could kill the company’s hopes – providing residents don’t first.

Town residents are preparing to vote on a bylaw change that would effectively ban industrial wind turbines in Peru at annual town meeting on June 14.

A two-thirds vote in favor of the change stands to end all possibility of industrial wind turbines in the town.