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Antrim ZBA to vote on met tower

The Antrim Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) unanimously voted on Tuesday to close the public hearing on the height variance for a meteorological (met) tower on Tuttle Hill, and begin deliberations at their next meeting on the issue, which will be Oct. 13. ...Including three company officials from Eolian Renewable Energy, the parent company of Antrim Wind Power LLC, those attending the meeting numbered thirty. The majority of opinions heard by the board were against giving the height variance for the met tower.

The Antrim Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) unanimously voted on Tuesday to close the public hearing on the height variance for a meteorological (met) tower on Tuttle Hill, and begin deliberations at their next meeting on the issue, which will be Oct. 13.

Deliberations between board members will be open to the public, but closed to any comment from the public. The met tower is proposed to be nearly 200 feet high in a Rural Conservation District, but the ordinance states that in no circumstance may a tower exceed 150 feet. Therefore the proposal has been put to the ZBA to decide.

The met tower would collect data for consideration of whether a wind farm would be practical to construct on Tuttle Hill.

Including three company officials from Eolian Renewable Energy, the parent company of Antrim Wind Power LLC, those attending the meeting numbered thirty. The majority of opinions heard by the board were against giving the height variance for the met tower.

However, Gordon Webber submitted a petition with a growing number of signatures on it in favor of the met tower and the possibility of a wind farm in general. Last night's petition had 31 signatures in addition to the 49 who signed by... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The Antrim Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) unanimously voted on Tuesday to close the public hearing on the height variance for a meteorological (met) tower on Tuttle Hill, and begin deliberations at their next meeting on the issue, which will be Oct. 13.

Deliberations between board members will be open to the public, but closed to any comment from the public. The met tower is proposed to be nearly 200 feet high in a Rural Conservation District, but the ordinance states that in no circumstance may a tower exceed 150 feet. Therefore the proposal has been put to the ZBA to decide.

The met tower would collect data for consideration of whether a wind farm would be practical to construct on Tuttle Hill.

Including three company officials from Eolian Renewable Energy, the parent company of Antrim Wind Power LLC, those attending the meeting numbered thirty. The majority of opinions heard by the board were against giving the height variance for the met tower.

However, Gordon Webber submitted a petition with a growing number of signatures on it in favor of the met tower and the possibility of a wind farm in general. Last night's petition had 31 signatures in addition to the 49 who signed by the Sept. 15 meeting, totaling 80 signatures from Antrim residents.

But opposition comments were forceful, even if less numerous than the signatories of the petition.

"These guys are greenhorns," said abutter Sarah Gorman of the Eolian officers who have not yet erected a wind farm anywhere, but have installed met towers they hope will lead to the construction of wind farms. "They've never done this before. They want to sacrifice our land for their profit."

"This is a whole new level of expertise for the board to review," said ZBA chairman John Kendall in opening the continued hearing. "We seem to dig up more and more unanswered questions."

Abutter Ellen Druan echoed that sentiment, by chastising the ZBA for not having a professional from the state present to advise them on the technical aspects of the proposal. But Kendall pointed out that the ZBA may not function in that manner, and must hear both from both supporters and objectors.

The back of my property is in the Rural Conservation District," said abutter Spencer Garrett. "I don't want a met tower in my back yard. Eolian has said this land is unique. But to me to install a met tower is not a proper use for Rural Conservation land."

The majority of abutters against the proposal do not want to see the untouched area polluted by any sort of development and believe their property values would plummet with the possibility of a wind farm that a met tower would present.

"I am in favor of renewable energy, but only if it takes place in open meadows, where the wind flows freely," said Annie Law, who lives within site of the proposed met tower. "I'm not in favor of anyone placing towers on the top of our mountains. . . . Our property values would diminish and our wildlife would be impacted and perhaps become obsolete over time."

Law said that she and her partner, Robert Cleland, were approached a couple of years back with a proposal to erect a cell phone tower on their property, but refused for the same reasons.

"The money would have been nice, but the preservation of our habitat is way more important than money," Law said.

In a letter read aloud at the meeting, written by Peter Beblowski, a 20-year veteran of the Antrim Conservation Commission, he states, "I feel the ZBA should deny this variance because the use of a met tower as an accessory facility to a potential commercial wind farm is completely contrary to the purpose of the Rural Conservation District."

Later in the meeting, John Soininen of Eolian, countered the claim that the area is distinctly conservation land.

"The property in question is not conservation land and to call it such is a misnomer," said Soininen. "This property could be subdivided and developed just like any other residential property in town."

The land belongs to Michael Ott, who is in favor of the met tower.

Francie Von Mertens of Peterborough, writing as an individual and not a representative of the Audubon Society, countered a claim by Eolian that the National Audubon Society supports wind power.

"If the various Audubon groups in the New England states were asked about commercial wind turbines you very likely would receive an endorsement for siting them offshore, and on windswept blueberry barrens or windswept lowland agricultural land," she pointed out. "You would not receive an endorsement for siting them on ridgelines located in areas identified as intact, roadless forest blocks. Many compelling reasons would be supplied."
One argument Eolian is making is that Ott's property is unique, yielding a blend of features unavailable in other sites. Whether a proposed site is unique or not is important to the decision process by the ZBA.

"This property is unique given the combination of several key attributes which individually exist in several location in town, however, in combination exist only in one area of town, Tuttle Hill," said Soininen. "The combination of elevation, wind resource, proximity to transportation, proximity to electrical transmission, lack of conservation easements, lack of wetlands, distance from residential structures and previous impact to the property make it unlike any other property in town."

Proximity to electrical transmission lines is important to the practicality of linking to the electrical grid without incurring untenable expenses.

"There can be no reasonable argument made, and no evidence exists, to suggest that Mr. Ott's property is not unique in its surroundings with respect to its potential ability to host a wind energy facility," Soininen insisted.

In regards to diminishing real estate values, Loranne Block rebutted Eolian's comparison of Searsburg, Vermont to Antrim. Eolian used the small town of 96 fulltime residents to defend their claim that property values would not diminish as a result of the presence of a wind farm. She pointed out that the turbines in Searsburg aren't readily visible by most, if any, properties, and "are less than half the height (196 feet) of those being proposed (410 feet) By Antrim Wind."

She compared Antrim to the town of Mars hill, Maine, where the population is 1,480 and eleven 400-foot tall wind turbines were erected in 2007.

"The documented diminution of these properties, within two miles of the wind facility, range from 25 percent to 50 percent with a median of 34 percent," said Block. "The property with 50 percent devaluation was simply listed as unsellable."

But Soininen pointed out that Paul Hardwick of Appleshed Realty in Antrim submitted a letter stating his "opinion that it is clear that the approval of a met tower on Tuttle Hill would have negative impact on surrounding properties," but would not answer phone calls from him, asking Hardwick to support his opinion.

Soininen then pointed out that two other New Hampshire realtors, Alex Gray of Hometown Realty and Gary Roberge of Avitar assessing both disagree with Hardwick. Soininen read letters by both at the meeting.

Nevertheless, Richard Block disagreed with their assessments, observing that the ordinance in question only addresses the use of a small wind power facility, not a commercial one.

"Their attempt to use the Small Wind Ordinance to address their met tower is, in effect, an attempt to bend our zoning ordinances to make them fit their application," Block stated. "There is no provision for an industrial met tower in Antrim's zoning, so there is no way to even have literal enforcement of the law. . . . The plain reading of the Antrim's Small Wind Systems Article is clear, met towers only apply to small wind system use."


Source: http://www.villagernewspape...

OCT 1 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/22469-antrim-zba-to-vote-on-met-tower
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