Savoy board rejects developer's wind power appeal

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SAVOY — Commercial wind turbines will not rise anytime soon in Savoy, after the developer lost a critical appeal Wednesday night.

The town's Zoning Board of Appeals voted to affirm a building inspector's decision to reject a building permit for five turbines on West Hill talked about since 2005.

The vote closes the door for now on an effort by for Minuteman Wind LLC to bring a large-scale wind project to this town in northeastern Berkshire County.

Steven Weisman of Minuteman Wind declined to say after the vote whether his team will appeal the ZBA's decision, which must still be drafted and filed.

"We're going to wait and see what they say," he said of the board's action.

After an hour of discussion in the town's Route 116 firehouse, including comments from the public, the board voted at 7:52 p.m. to close a public hearing that began in late May and decide whether to support or overrule Building Inspector Phil Delorey's April 5 decision to reject the company's application for authorization to begin work.

The issue came down to whether the smaller project outlined in the company's April 2 building permit application was significantly different from the one approved in a special permit granted in 2010 and extended in 2016.

The five board members agreed unanimously that it was.

The panel split, though, on whether the scope of work outlined in the permit application would have constituted actual construction, if it had been granted.

The developer faced a May 20 deadline to begin construction. On that question, three of the board's five members felt the plans submitted for a first phase of work — including improvements to roads, laying underground utility lines and setting foundations for the turbines — did not add up to construction.

Ruth H. Silman, the Boston attorney representing Minuteman Wind, argued that the work was both "substantially consistent" with the original special permit and that the developer was prepared to get start work before the deadline.

The ZBA's members include John Tynan, its chairman, and Al Carlow, Sue Reinhardt, April LeSage and Royce Buehler.

All voted to uphold Delorey's permit denial on the grounds that it was too much at odds with the special permit. Buehler abstained from the question of whether the first phase of work constituted construction. LeSage, calling the question abstract, voted no, but three members voted yes, enough to affirm the permit denial.

Mark Bobrowski, the attorney representing Savoy, will draft a decision for the board based on the two votes and file it by July 31.

Asked whether he expected a court appeal from Minuteman Wind, Bobrowski said: "I always anticipate going to court. Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised."

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

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