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Winsted panel turns down wind plan

Optiwind's quixotic mission to build a wind turbine came to an end Monday night. The Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4 to 1 to deny Optiwind's application to revise the current zoning regulations, citing the time element and information deficit over possible benefits of the wind turbine.

WINSTED-Optiwind's quixotic mission to build a wind turbine came to an end Monday night.

The Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4 to 1 to deny Optiwind's application to revise the current zoning regulations, citing the time element and information deficit over possible benefits of the wind turbine. Barbara Wilkes summarized the commission's frustration with the back-and-forth element of the debate before her vote, stating "I think we've said it all."

Michael Speck, Optiwind's representative, disagreed.

"They had plenty of time," said Mr. Speck, who presented Optiwind's case. "The shortage of time was self-created by the commission."

The two parties had found much in the way of common ground during the process, but a last-minute arrival from attorney Robin Pearson cast the debate in a different light. Ms. Pearson, a land-use attorney with Shipman, Sosensky & Marks, submitted a legal review of the proposed amendment Monday, giving the commission little time to review her comments. A technical error did not help, forcing the reprinting of her review with annotations included.

However, Ms. Pearson's review encapsulated the prevailing opinion, stating that "the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

WINSTED-Optiwind's quixotic mission to build a wind turbine came to an end Monday night.

The Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4 to 1 to deny Optiwind's application to revise the current zoning regulations, citing the time element and information deficit over possible benefits of the wind turbine. Barbara Wilkes summarized the commission's frustration with the back-and-forth element of the debate before her vote, stating "I think we've said it all."

Michael Speck, Optiwind's representative, disagreed.

"They had plenty of time," said Mr. Speck, who presented Optiwind's case. "The shortage of time was self-created by the commission."

The two parties had found much in the way of common ground during the process, but a last-minute arrival from attorney Robin Pearson cast the debate in a different light. Ms. Pearson, a land-use attorney with Shipman, Sosensky & Marks, submitted a legal review of the proposed amendment Monday, giving the commission little time to review her comments. A technical error did not help, forcing the reprinting of her review with annotations included.

However, Ms. Pearson's review encapsulated the prevailing opinion, stating that "the proposed regulation appears to be a compilation from several sources, making it difficult to use for applicants, the public, and the commission and its staff. Parts are redundant, creating potential inconsistencies and the relationship to existing sections of the zoning regulations need strengthening."

Ms. Pearson's review showed some inconsistencies with another review conducted by consultant Martin Connor, who elaborated on his recommended proposal. The Connor proposal eliminated several redundancies and left room to grow in some areas, such as striking the word "distributed" to allow smaller-scale, residential turbines. Additionally, noise regulations were eliminated due to the Torrington Area Health District's noise ordinance that already covers Winchester.

Mr. Speck agreed with many of the points in Mr. Connor's review, with the major points of contention coming in regard to decommissioning wind turbines, as well as a periodic special permit review. Mr. Speck objected to Mr. Connor's proposal that facility permits would only be valid for 25 years, citing examples of case law. Additionally, Mr. Speck questioned who would determine whether or not a facility appeared functional, stating that their proposed 10-year minimum offered the facility a chance to actually operate before being ruled abandoned.

These disagreements, though, would have led to further debate, a process that the commission largely agreed was unproductive at this point. Rather than incorporate the Optiwind proposal into existing zoning regulations, the commission opted to wait until the town's Plan of Conservation and Development offered a clean slate.

"I do not feel comfortable pursuing this," said commission member Craig Sanden, while emphasizing that the decision had little to do with the turbine's benefits.

The turbine plan had support from residents, considering that their large size would make the turbines unfeasible for residential use, but perfectly suited to lessen the town's energy demand. One meeting attendee stated that "we'd like to offset [the demand for energy], and this is an opportunity to do that." Chairman John Winn, Jr., though, elected for restraint, stating that "we don't need every community jumping in."

By rejecting Optiwind's application and delaying the turbine decision, the commission sought more time to gather data. Optiwind, though, set a timeline, and Mr. Speck offered a final 30-day extension to debate, which would have encompassed two more commission meetings. Despite their agreement on most of the proposed changes to the zoning regulations, though, the commission opted not to continue the process.


Source: http://www.countytimes.com/...

AUG 2 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/27527-winsted-panel-turns-down-wind-plan
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