Hopkinton Town Board to discuss new wind law proposal

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HOPKINTON — The Hopkinton Town Board plans to discuss its proposed new law regulating wind turbines during its meeting on Monday, and it may be a lively meeting.

“I’ve heard there’s going to be a lot of people there,” said Town Supervisor Susan M. Wood.

The new wind law would replace the current town law, passed in 2011. It would regulate the North Ridge Wind Energy Project, which the energy company Avangrid plans to establish in the town.

It has been reported that this meeting might mark the board’s final discussion before the wind law is brought for a public hearing and vote next month, but now that seems unlikely, according to Ms. Wood.

“I don’t think we’ll be putting it up for a vote in March,” Ms. Wood said. Asked when it might finally come for a vote, Ms. Wood said she had “no idea.”

Board members felt they were under some time pressure to pass the new law, as it might not apply to North Ridge if Avangrid filed an application with the state to begin the project before the new law is passed.

In that case, “we were under the impression the 2011 (law) would go into effect,” Ms. Wood said.

Now it looks like that was incorrect, and the new law will take effect regardless of when Avangrid files its application.

Ms. Wood said the board spoke to Paul Agresta, general counsel with the state Public Service Commission, which regulates energy generation projects. According to Ms. Wood, Mr. Agresta said the new law would apply whenever it was passed.

James Denn, a spokesman for the PSC, said he had no record of a conversation between Mr. Agresta and the Hopkinton board, but the information is correct. No matter when the wind law is passed, the North Ridge “Siting Board would take it into consideration,” Mr. Denn wrote.

This may be good news for the board, which is still divided on several key issues.

“We still don’t have agreement on the overlay zone,” Ms. Wood said.

The overlay zone is the area where turbines would be permitted to be constructed, and the board is still trying to decide whether to allow construction south of State Route 72. Representatives of Avangrid have rejected the ban on turbines south of Route 72 as arbitrary, while opponents of the North Ridge project say the restrictive overlay zone is necessary to protect the area, including the Adirondack Park boundary.

Beside the overlay zones, Ms. Wood said the board is still trying to reach agreement on the issues of setbacks for the turbines and acceptable noise levels.

Despite the disagreements, some board members want to reach a decision quickly.

“My hope is we can get (the law) approved pretty soon,” said Steven Parker Jr., a member of the board. He said he thinks turbines should be allowed south of Route 72 and that the current guidelines on turbine noise levels in the proposed law are too stringent.

Fellow board member Kelly Pullano also expressed her hope that the wind law would be approved soon.

“I believe it is a good wind law,” she said.

With the understanding that the law will apply whenever it is passed, however, Ms. Pullano is less concerned about time. Ms. Pullano feels that the wind overlay should not include the area south of Route 72, saying there are only eight leaseholders in the area, while 150 residents have signed a petition to stop turbines expanding south of the highway.

Other members of the board did not immediately return requests for comment.

The board will hold its monthly meeting at the Town Hall, 7 Church St., at 6:30 p.m. Monday.

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