The most recent update to the tracker log also prompted a note from Parishville Town Supervisor Rodney Votra, who said that Avangrid did not include several important meetings. “It appears as though Avangrid representatives are less than complete with their submission,” Mr. Votra wrote to the Department of Public Service. “Most importantly, of the missing information, is Avangrid’s decision to exclude the Town of Parishville from the proposed project. ... I request that you address Avangrid representatives and instruct them to include these events in the PIP tracking report.”
HOPKINTON – After some legal confusion caused the hearing on Hopkinton’s new wind law to be postponed, the Board has set a new date for the hearing.
The draft law was finalized at a Town Board working session on Feb. 27. The new wind law would replace the current town law, passed in 2011. It would regulate the North Ridge Wind Energy Project, which the energy company Avangrid plans to establish in the town.
At the working session, board members set a hearing for Wednesday. But a few days before the hearing, the town lawyer notified board members that they had not met the legal requirement for notice. Usually, hearings need five days of published notice, but laws involving land use – like the wind law – require 10 days.
On Wednesday, Town Supervisor Susan M. Wood announced that hearing had been rescheduled for 6:30 p.m. on March 28 at the Town Hall, after several days of emailed communication with the board to remedy the error.
“I’m not going to place blame,” said board member Kelly Pullano when asked about who was responsible for the confusion. She said the important thing was moving ahead with the law.
The working session also provoked some controversy over its exact nature.
The work session was public, but it was not a formal town meeting, and no public comment was planned. During the working session, Ms. Wood did allow MaryJane Toomey, a member of the wind advisory board, to speak about a proposal to allow property owners to receive compensation if a wind turbine lowered their property value.
“Are we allowed to respond?” asked Robert A. Panasci, a partner at Young/Sommer, LLC, which represents Avangrid. When told he would not be allowed to respond during the meeting, he said “I just want it to be noted for the record that only one side was allowed to speak.”
On March 6, Avangrid filed the latest update to its Public Involvement Program tracking log with the State Department of Public Service, which oversees all wind projects and which lists all documents received relating to the North Ridge project online. The log listed meetings that representatives of the company had held about the North Ridge project.
The written description of the work session in the log read: “Special Working Session town board limited to discussion of proposed Local Law #2 of 2018 (Wind Facilities Law), announced as accepting no public comment.However, public commemts were accepted from a few attendees..”(sic).
On March 7, Ms. Wood wrote to the Department of Public Service objecting to the characterization of the meeting in the log.
“Regarding the filing of the Tracking Log from AvanGrid Renewables, I would like to point out the company has misrepresented a working session,” she wrote. “The only individual that was allowed to speak was a member of the Wind Advisory Board due to a clarification that was needed.”
Ms. Wood told the Times she does not expect anything to happen, and as of Tuesday, had not heard back from Avangrid.
“I agree 100 percent with Sue Wood,” Ms. Pullano said when asked about the letter. Board member Steven Parker Jr. said he was not familiar with it when asked.
Avangrid stands by its characterization of the meeting in the tracker, according to Paul N. Copleman, communications manager for Avangrid.
“Our view is characterized in the tracker,” he wrote in an email.
The most recent update to the tracker log also prompted a note from Parishville Town Supervisor Rodney Votra, who said that Avangrid did not include several important meetings.
“It appears as though Avangrid representatives are less than complete with their submission,” Mr. Votra wrote to the Department of Public Service. “Most importantly, of the missing information, is Avangrid’s decision to exclude the Town of Parishville from the proposed project. … I request that you address Avangrid representatives and instruct them to include these events in the PIP tracking report.”
Parishville was removed from the North Ridge project in January. Mr. Copelman said the decision had not been included in the tracker because there was no meeting.
“Regarding the comment about the Parishville decision, no meeting was required, and we communicated our decision to exclude Parishville via a letter,” he wrote in an emailed response to questions from the Times. Mr. Copelman said the letter was then filed with the state.
Mr. Votra also expressed concerns that Avangrid was omitting information related to meetings last summer about assessments versus Payments In Lieu Of Taxes on turbines.
Mr. Copleman said that the log was not legally required to be comprehensive, and that no meetings had been left out.
“It might be worth noting that the purpose of a PIP tracker is for Avangrid Renewables to demonstrate how we are following through with our public engagement commitments,” he wrote. “It is not intended as a mandatory disclosure of all manner of events or discussions related to the development process. Rather, it is a tool we use to show the extent to which we’re engaging with stakeholders regarding the project.”
Mr. Votra, however, felt that Avangrid was obscuring the truth about the meetings about the PILOT.
“Avangrid was telling (residents) we were unwilling to talk to them, which wasn’t true at all – they walked away from us,” he said. “I don’t think Avangrid is being completely honest. … They’re telling bits and pieces of the story.”
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