Timeline for Whalerock application for two 410 foot wind turbines next to residential neighborhoods
In the 2008 to 2010 Town Council term, the Town Council members were Gregg Avedesian, Forrester Safford, Marge Frank, Charlene Dunn, and Richard Hosp. In the timeline below for the period November 2008 to November 2010 they were the members. Richard Hosp did not agree with all of the votes taken below.
The Zoning Ordinance for Wind
2009: The then Town Council directed the Town Planner to write a Zoning Ordinance Amendment for wind which gives the town council sole responsibility for approving the two turbines. Members of the Town Council worked in consultation with the developer to create an ordinance that would work for the needs of the developer.
The Planning Commission did not write the ordinance but they were allowed to comment. Here is a link to their advisory. The Planning Commission based their advisory in part on the siting guidelines developed by DEM. The then Town Council did not make the changes proposed by the Planning Commission.
With the ordinance in place, the developer proposed a partnership agreement with the town. Highlights of the agreement were:
- turbines will be 1.5 to 2.5 megawatts to be decided by the developer not the town
- the agreement is for 20 years
- taxes will be frozen at the present assessed value of land plus turbines for 20 years
- all building permit fees and any other fees are waived
- developer will pay the Town 2% of his payments from National Grid up to a limit of $50,000. (this doesn’t get adjusted for inflation over those 20 years)
July 26, 2010: Partnership Agreement signed between developer and then Town Council
September 10, 2010: Application filed for two 410 foot tall wind turbines
September 13, 2010: Town Council accepts the application and immediately schedules a public hearing for October 14 2010
September 27, 2010: Planner issues a Certificate of Completeness with a list of deficiencies (not really complete)
September 27, 2010: John Matuza, the Building and Zoning Official, issues a memo advising the Town Council that even though they have taken over the roles of the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board, the applicant must still comply with “the applicable sections of the Zoning Ordinance, Site Plan Review and Special Use Permit”
October 14, 2010: Town Council votes at public hearing to exempt developer from Site Plan Review and Special Use Permit.
October 25, 2010: The public hearing on Whalerock’s proposal continues, but Town councilors voted 5-0 to postpone hearings after learning that an independent noise consultant would not be available to offer a review of the project until after the Nov. 2 election.
November 2, 2010: Elected to the Town Council are Marge Frank, Gregg Avedesian, Tom Gentz, Dan Slattery, and Lisa DiBello
November 7, 2010: The developers withdraw their partnership agreement with the town, and plan to seek approval for the project from the town’s Zoning Board.
November 15, 2010: A resolution authorizing a four-month moratorium on new wind turbine developments passed on a 3-2 vote, with Avedisian and Frank opposing it.
November 30, 2011: John Matuza, the town’s building and zoning official, rules that the Whalerock proposal for two wind turbines is not complete. Among the reasons in his ruling were that the application did not include potential adverse impacts to wildlife and proof that shadow flicker from spinning blades would not adversely impact neighboring or adjacent uses.
January 18, 2011: The Charlestown Zoning Board rules the application complete and reversed the ruling of the Building Official.
February 2011: Neighbors of the proposed wind turbines and the Town Council file appeals of the Zoning Board’s decision.
November 2011: The Town Council gives approval to an ordinance for small scale wind turbines for residential power.
August 24, 2012: The Superior Court judge sends the court case back to the Zoning Board to clarify its January 2011 decision that allowed Whalerock’s bid for a commercial wind farm to advance under an ordinance that was later repealed.
November 6, 2012: Tom Gentz, Dan Slattery, George Tremblay, Lisa DiBello, and Paula Andersen were elected to the Town Council
November 2012: Zoning Board votes that the Whalerock application is complete and reaffirms their reversal of the ruling of the Building Official.
November 26, 2012: Whalerock Developer sues the Town Council and Planning Commission demanding that the judge void a section of the town’s zoning ordinances that allows the Planning Commission to review special use permit applications for large wind energy systems.
April 10, 2013: Superior Court Judge rules that the Zoning Board can review the application without an advisory from the Planning Commission and that the Town Council cannot appeal.
May 13, 2013: Town Council made a decision to hire a Special Counsel to represent the interest of the town and its residents before the Zoning Board regarding the Whalerock project. The Town Council believes it is in the best interest of the entire Town to hire a special legal counsel with authority to hire appropriate experts on the impact of commercial wind turbines.
May 21, 2013: Zoning Board will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. at Charlestown Elementary School to review the application for two 410 foot wind turbines.