Armed with full notepads and even a poster board, opponents of the two controversial North Kingstown wind turbines took to the microphone at Monday’s Town Council meeting, airing their frustrations after the building permit for the site of North Kingstown’s probable first turbine was reinstated for a second time.
Before Town Council President Elizabeth Dolan opened the meeting up to public comment, Town Solicitor James Reilly took time to explain the permit’s reinstatement and how the North Kingstown Green turbine's scenario differs from a similar turbine that was denied by the North Kingstown Planning Commission.
“The difference in the legal analysis is that North Kingstown Green is a vested property right while Stamp Farm was an ongoing application where no approvals had been granted and there were no vested property rights involved,” said Reilly. According to Reilly, vested property rights cannot be constitutionally taken away without compensation.
According to Reilly, the NK Green turbine went through the old approval process, needing a variance and a special use permit (which gives the property owner a vested property right). Stamp Farm, however, went through the new process and was subsequently shot down by the planning commission due to the “significant” changes to the application.
“We’re talking about the same exact change from Vestas to Goldwind,” said Edris Crockford, who brought a poster board featuring 11 points highlighting issues and concerns with the NK Green permit.
In both cases, the initial turbine model was slated to be a 427-foot Vestas V100. Though the change to a smaller, 389-foot Goldwind Global GW87 turbine proved too much of a change for the planning commission, Reilly says the reduction in size and change in model isn’t enough to pull the building permit once again. If the town pulled the building permit once more, Reilly said he “personally” felt the town would likely lose an appeal by the developer in Superior Court.
“To not reissue the vested property right would have subjected the town to significant and substantial exposure as well as significant attorney’s fees,” said Reilly. Reilly also indicated a lawsuit filed by the developer could be in the millions.
Earlier this year, Mark DePasquale (CEO of the turbine’s developer, Wind Energy Development LLC) filed a $25-million suit against his neighbors at the subdivision who had not yet filed their deeds. (The deed filings were needed for a land swap for the subdivision’s building permit to be reinstated and for construction on the turbine to recommence. The matter was settled out of court.)
For many of the nearly 100 residents who came out to Monday’s meeting, the cost of the turbine being constructed could be higher than a lawsuit.
“If North Kingstown Green fails, we’re going to suffer a lot more,” said Crockford.
Residents also questioned the quality of the new turbine model. Both Reilly, residents and members of the town council discussed the issue of certification. At this time, the town does not have documented proof that the turbine is certified.
Despite the large showing of residents opposed to the turbine’s possible construction, a handful of residents came out to voice their support of the endeavor.
“You’re putting up all these road blocks to wind energy,” said Seth Steinman. “Just give it a chance.”
Though a dozen or so residents took to the microphone that night, no residents from North Kingstown Green spoke.
Due to the recent reinstatement of the building permit and the probable construction of the turbine, changes to the town’s wind energy ordinance need to once again be revised. Last month, the council proposed to ban all wind energy systems in town.
“Since you are going to have a turbine [in town], you certainly need an ordinance that includes performance and maintenance standards,” said Town Manager Michael Embury.
The council looks to extend its moratorium on wind systems once again at one of its September meetings to allow for review of the upcoming ordinance draft and to allow for workshops.