Wind project shuts down

Posted
Wednesday, Oct. 14
LANESBOROUGH -- Construction on Berkshire Wind's $46 million wind turbine project atop Brodie Mountain has been halted indefinitely because of a dispute over its access road.

Silverleaf Resorts Inc., which plans a $42 million vacation condominium project at the foot of Brodie Mountain, contends Berkshire Wind's 2004 road permit had expired because it took more than a year -- the life of the permit -- for "substantial construction" to begin, according to the injunction order issued last week by the Massachusetts Land Court in Boston.

Based in Dallas, Silverleaf Resorts intends to build a 332-unit condominium project on the 1,080 acres of land it has acquired around Brodie Mountain since 2004.

Construction of the turbines was expected to be completed in January, and by next spring to start generating enough power for 6,000 area homes. The Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Co. owns the electricity distribution rights the wind turbines would generate.

Silverleaf's lawyers contend that if the wind project is completed, "Silverleaf will be unable to use its property for its intended purpose -- a high-priced resort," the injunction order states.

Just as two of the 10 wind turbines have been finished, how long the issue will take to resolve is unclear: A court will have to decide the merits of Silverleaf's claim.

Tyler Fairbank, spokesperson for Berkshire Wind LLC and president of EOS Ventures, a local renewable energy development firm, said the legal proceedings "could happen very quickly or it could take a while."

"It is frustrating that a project with so many attributes could be delayed because of this matter," Fairbank added.

This is not the first time Silverleaf has filed suit against the wind project. In 2006, Silverleaf claimed the Berkshire Wind project trespassed on the resort company's land and that the wind turbines would detract from the view at its condominium project. That lawsuit was settled out of court in 2007.

This latest lawsuit over the road permit was filed in 2007, but the Land Court's stop-work order didn't come until Thursday -- only a few weeks after Berkshire Wind's project had started to take shape.

Meanwhile, Berkshire Wind started hauling turbine parts along the access road on Sept. 28. To date, two of the 10, 1.5-megawatt turbines have been completed, five more are under construction, and three sites are ready for the rest. The turbines rise about 385 feet above the ridge line.

The disputed section of access road, eight-tenths of a mile long, runs from Brodie Mountain Road in the northwest corner of Lanesborough toward the mountain's ridgeline in Hancock and New Ashford west of Route 7.

The Lanesborough Zoning Board of Appeals granted Berkshire Wind the road permit in 2004, giving the company the route it needed to build especially for the project. The wind project has been in various states of planning since 1998 and officially broke ground in 2006.

As a result of the injunction, Fairbank said "a number of things are being evaluated, including the legalities and other operational options." About 25 workers have been idled by the order.

Representatives for Silverleaf, a national resort company that also owns the Oak ‘N' Spruce vacation condominium resort in Lee, did not return calls seeking comment.

The Land Court granted the injunction because of its concern for "the harm that [Silverleaf] will suffer if the wind facility is constructed in advance of a decision on the merits being issued by this court. In the event the wind facility is constructed and [Silverleaf is] ultimately successful on the merits of this action, they will be deprived of the legal remedy they would have been entitled to."

The Berkshire Wind project is owned by the Berkshire Wind Power Cooperative Corp., a collaboration among the 14 members of the nonprofit Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Co., which includes the communities of Ashburnham, Boylston, Groton, Holden, Hull, Ipswich, Marblehead, Paxton, Peabody, Shrewsbury, Sterling, Templeton, Wakefield and West Boylston.

Berkshire Wind Cooperative Group purchased the wind project for $4 million in June 2008.

To reach Scott Stafford:
sstafford@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6241.


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