MV Gazette, on November 13th, 2009

Third Test for Wind Bylaw, Rewritten for Aquinnah to Pass

If is true that the third time is a charm, then town leaders in Aquinnah may see their long hours of hard work on a wind energy bylaw pay off when they bring it in front of voters at a special town meeting on Tuesday night.

Rejected twice by Aquinnah voters at town meetings in the past two years, the bylaw has been shortened, reworked and rewritten to make it more readable.

“This is a different version that reflects the concerns that people had about our last one,” said selectman and planning board member Camille Rose, a prime mover behind the bylaw. “We changed a lot of the language that people thought was burdensome or vague. We simplified it,” she said.

The town meeting begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the old town hall. Moderator Walter E. Delaney will preside; there are 12 articles on the warrant.

Structured as an amendment to the townwide district of critical planning concern (Aquinnah is the only town on the Island that has a townwide DCPC), the wind bylaw would create a detailed special permit process for two types of land-based wind turbines: private residential, and municipal turbines. Private residential turbines would include single owner and communal turbines. The bylaw frames a special permit process and also includes siting guidelines that regulate height, location and color for wind power machines. There are provisions for decommissioning and requirements that limit special permits for turbines to a life span of 15 years, given “the face of evolving technology.”

A final section of the bylaw, not included the last time around, creates a set of goals and siting standards for ocean-based wind turbines as well. “At the time, there were no models of ocean-based wind turbines,” said Ms. Rose. “Now we’re developing them with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission . . . It’s more of a reality now.”

An earlier version of the bylaw required wind turbine applicants to have a home energy audit; that section has been removed in response to criticism from voters on the town meeting floor.

“We’re hoping that what we did was responsive to people’s concerns and yet did not emasculate the language,” said Ms. Rose. “The concepts were created to protect the town, and its residents, and its landscape. And that’s pretty much what we’ve tried to do while honoring the respect for alternative energy sources.”

Ms. Rose said the town has held 12 posted public meetings on the bylaw, including one formal hearing as required by law.

Selectman Jim Newman said he thinks the town is well prepared with the bylaw this time around. “It wasn’t really vetted very well [the first time],” he said. “People just didn’t want to accept it. I think it will pass now. They really cleaned it up and there is more interest in it now also.”

Also on Tuesday night voters will be asked to spend $115,000 from the town Community Preservation Act fund to purchase a plot of land for affordable housing. Landowner June Noble has offered to sell a 1.1-acre parcel on State Road near the Orange Peel Bakery to the Aquinnah housing committee at a highly discounted price. The assessed value of the property is just over $340,000.

Housing committee chairman Derrill Bazzy said the town has been setting aside CPA money for several years with the intention of buying affordable housing properties. He said there is about $250,000 in the fund, leaving more for a future project if voters approve the purchase.

If it is approved, Mr. Bazzy said the housing committee would develop a plan to remove the two buildings currently standing on the property, upgrade the septic system and possibly replace the well. A site plan would be created for a single resident homesite. He said the town would later transfer the land ownership to a nonprofit such as the Island Housing Trust, which owns two of the five current resident homesites in Aquinnah. A lottery would be held and someone who qualifies would win the right to build a home on the land.

Voters will be asked to reduce the town quorum requirement from 10 to five per cent of registered voters. This would mean that 20 voters instead of 40 would be allowed to convene a town meeting. At times in recent years the town has had a hard time assembling a quorum for town meetings. “It’s very difficult to do business,” said Mr. Newman.

Voters will also be asked to:

• Appropriate $100,000 for repairs to the town office building, including interior painting, roof shingling, window replacement and wiring upgrades. If the request is approved the town will secure a bank loan for the amount, and a ballot vote will be held at the annual town election to exempt the debt from the constraints of Proposition 2 1/2.

• Appropriate $4,600 from the Community Preservation Act undesignated fund to complete a project at the Aquinnah Circle involving the burial and removal of overhead electrical wires.

• Approve a $5 fee for each written demand issued by the tax collector. The town would collect the fee, which was formerly collected by the tax collector.

• Appropriate an additional $1,616 for the Health Care Access Program; the money would be taken from an unspent balance on the purchase of a dump truck for the highway department.

by Megan Dooley

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