A Portuguese wind-energy developer is asking a Grafton County judge to order Alexandria’s selectmen to grant it a building permit for a 262-foot meteorological tower.
Though selectmen last year had given EDP Renewables conditional approval to build the tower, Selectmen Donnie Sharp and Michael Broome refused to second a motion by Selectman George Tuthill to grant the permit in July.
EDP, which has proposed a $140 million, 15- to 25-turbine Spruce Ridge wind-power project in Alexandria, Groton and Hebron, said through its attorneys that the board acted wrongly.
“At least two of the selectmen purposefully refused to address (EDP’s) request for a final building permit,” wrote attorneys Mark E. Beliveau and Michele E. Kenney of Pierce Atwood LLP in Portsmouth.
“Their refusal to act was an abuse of authority and responsibility under the town of Alexandria Building Permit Ordinance. And their refusal to grant the final application was arbitrary and capricious,” they continued.
The pleading says the town’s objections are based on two issues: the town’s newly enacted Rights-Based Ordinance, which was passed by voters in March to ensure local control over energy projects in town, and “a generalized opposition to wind farm development in Alexandria.”
The attorneys are requesting a “writ of mandamus,” or a court order compelling the Alexandria selectmen to issue a final building permit for the tower. Beliveau and Kenney did not return phone calls asking for comment Monday.
Broome had stated at a previous meeting that he would not agree to sign a permit for the tower project because of the Rights-Based Ordinance, which asserts the town’s rights of self-determination on large new energy projects.
Sharp had indicated that the will of the town was against new wind projects, as evidenced by the protest that played a role in the withdrawal of Spanish wind developer Iberdrola Renewables’ proposed Wild Meadows wind farm from the town in March.
EDP’s attorneys say the Rights-Based Ordinance is unconstitutional, and said all the company wants to build at the moment is a meteorological tower to test wind levels, not wind turbines.
Tuthill said the board will take up the issue again tonight at its meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. at Town Hall.
“My position is the same,” he said. “I don’t believe we have any grounds not to grant the permit. But we’ll see what the other selectmen want to do, and we’ll listen if the public has more to say.”
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