Planning, Select Boards send dueling letters on wind
ANTRIM — After the Planning Board voted, 4-3, that they do not endorse the petition warrant article regarding commercial wind farms at a Jan. 23 meeting, the board took a step further this week, sending a letter to residents Monday explaining exactly why it does not approve of this proposed zoning ordinance amendment. In response, the Select Board drafted a letter of its own on Monday to illustrate how it believes the proposed ordinance will protect the town.
Planning Board Chair Jesse Lazar said his motivation for writing the letter came from how concerned he is about what’s happening in town with the wind discussion and the nature of this ordinance. “It’s going to have a huge impact,” Lazar said. The letter provides two things, he said; one, it gives people a background of where the Planning Board is coming from, and two, it allows for further discussion about wind farms among the board. He was disappointed there was not more discussion at the meeting on Jan. 23, but the board created a sub-committee with Janet McEwen, Martha Pinello and Lazar to write the letter and the board liked it.
The language in the proposed ordinance regarding decommissioning is a concern to the Planning Board, according to letter. “Decommissioning language should protect Antrim from the financial risk of cleaning up after a failed or ended project,” the letter reads. “This Amendment does not do that. The Town could be facing financial burdens or losses that would significantly affect property taxation, as well as the liability of a failed site the Town could not remove with its own resources.”
In response to what Select Board Chair Gordon Webber sees as “misinformation” being put out in to the public through the Planning Board letter, as well as letters to the editor in the Ledger-Transcript and the Villager, the Select Board wrote its own letter Monday.
“The Planning Board thinks the ordinance does not protect the residents but the Select Board believes that it does,” Webber said.
From the Select Board’s point of view, Webber said the town is well-protected within the proposed zoning ordinance from the potential of decommissioning a future wind project. The town will also have a contract with any future wind developers as well as a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement, Webber added.
“Decommissioning requirements in the ordinance are thorough and require a bond prior to a building permit being issued,” the Select Board letter reads. “Also, prior to any building permit being issued, a municipal agreement must be signed which addresses emergency response, safety inspections, liability, public information, cost with N.H. Fish and Game in regards to undue impact to wildlife and plant species.”
Also, Webber pointed out, the practice of mailing letters to residents regarding voting issues like this is “highly unusual.”
In most cases, the Planning Board has a sentence under each proposed zoning amendment on the ballot that states whether the Board recommends or does not recommend the proposed amendment, and Webber said that’s usually enough. But he mentioned that when the Planning Board disapproved the proposed amendment, the Board did not come to a unanimous vote. When the Planning Board voted on the verbiage for the letter, it also was not a unanimous vote, Chair Jesse Lazar confirmed in an interview Monday. Webber was privy to these Planning Board conversations since he sits as the ex-officio for the Select Board.
Lindsey Arceci can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 232, or firstname.lastname@example.org.