Decade in, Savoy wind project reaches pivotal point

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SAVOY — Two of the state's most respected environmental and land-use lawyers will face off once again Wednesday in an unlikely place: the Savoy firehouse.

Ruth H. Silman of the Boston firm Nixon Peabody and Mark Bobrowski of Blatman, Bobrowski & Haverty of Concord are the legal guns being deployed as the fate of a decade-old wind-energy project comes down to the wire.

The town's Zoning Board of Appeals, represented by Bobrowski, resumes a public hearing Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Route 116 fire station.

The board will continue to hear arguments from Minuteman Wind LLC, Silman's client, that it was wrongly denied a building permit this spring.

On April 5, Building Inspector Phil Delorey rejected the company's application for authorization to begin work to erect five turbines on West Hill, near the Hawley line, on land owned by Harold "Butch" Malloy.

Though the project won backing from residents in 2008, sentiment has swung fully against wind energy in Savoy. Residents late last year voided a bylaw allowing commercial wind projects.

But the Minuteman Wind venture still held a special permit. Today, it is fighting for its life.

"Minuteman is clearly a party aggrieved," Silman told the board at the start of the hearing May 29. "Minuteman Wind believes the denial must be overturned."

Delorey says the application was incomplete. Silman argued at the first hearing that the building inspector should have sought clarification about the April 2 application, not reject it.

"The only communication was the denial," she said May 29. "We believe that in itself was unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious."

That night, Delorey said it's not his obligation to guide applicants through the process.

"I find that pretty difficult for a building official," Delorey said, responding to Silman. "In this case, there are a lot of issues. It felt like a rush. They were pressed, it felt like."

The ZBA could vote Wednesday night. If Minuteman Wind loses its appeal to the panel it could go to court.

Though the company's special permit required construction to begin by May 20, the appeal automatically extended that deadline, according to John Tynan, chairman of the ZBA as well as of the Select Board.

At the May hearing, Tynan questioned why Minuteman had in 2016 secured a two-year extension of its special permit and then waited until it was about to expire before seeking to advance the project.

Silman and Bobrowski may not be the only lawyers on the scene Wednesday.

Residents opposed to the project were represented at the May hearing by attorney Alan Seewald of Northampton.

Seewald noted then that Minuteman Wind wants to produce less energy than specified in its special permit — a 7.5-megawatt facility, instead of the 12.5-megawatt one detailed in the permit.

Minuteman Wind officials say they had to reduce the capacity due to limits of the electric grid in the area.

Silman characterized the difference as minor. She told the panel in May the change should not affect eligibility to secure a building permit.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.


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