Last week’s editorial, “Distill The Arguments To Fundamentals,” deserves a follow-up. Would Town Meeting have voted to approve the turbines years ago if they knew what the impact would be today? I think the answer is clearly no. In fact, what Town Meeting did do shortly after realizing the impact was to revise the turbine bylaw to make sure this situation never happened again. The planning board concluded that there may be a place in town for smaller turbines (less than 250kW), but that each case needs to be studied very carefully. Every new wind turbine, including municipal turbines, needs to go through the special permit process. It’s a very open and straightforward process: neighbors are notified, a hearing is scheduled, proponents describe their project, opponents describe their concerns, and the planning board or zoning board determines if the project meets the requirements of the bylaws and imposes conditions to ensure that it does.
So where are we today? Back to where this all began. This spring the courts ruled that the town was required to go through the special permit process. Over the summer the town argued that the zoning board should review the special permit for Wind 1 under the old version of the turbine bylaw (the planning board would review under the new bylaw). And now, with the special permit hearing a few weeks away, the town has decided that the best way to prepare for the hearing is to attempt to eliminate the hearing completely by exempting Wind 1 and Wind 2 from the special permit requirement. How can anyone take this seriously? The selectmen’s solution to the problem is to repeat the same mistake? Will they skip the required municipal use hearing again as well? How will this solve the problem?
The editor pointed out that if the ZBA denies a permit, or significantly reduces turbine operations, it’s not clear who will have to pick up the bill, and how big it will be. Once again, Town Meeting is being asked to address the turbines as a financial issue only and without key information to make an informed decision.
The fundamental question is, has the town marshaled all its forces to find a solution to the financial problem they now face? Have they reached out to our state representatives and senator for help? Have they hired special counsel to close out the Wind 2 loan/grant? The town faced several major obstacles during the planning stages. The FAA denied the original location for Wind 1, and the town marshaled the support of state and federal officials to win approval and reroute flight patterns at Otis. The building commissioner denied the original building permit for Wind 1 because it doesn’t meet the state building code. An all-out push was made to procure a variance from the state. Wind 2 didn’t meet the requirements of the “Buy American” provisions of the stimulus program which funded the project. Again, the town worked hard to convince officials that this was a worthy use of stimulus money.
I can’t help but think that if the town put as much time and money as they have fighting the neighbors into finding a solution to the financial issues, the problem would already be solved.
Todd A. Drummey, Blacksmith Shop Road, West Falmouth