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Despite state agency involvement, Henderson wind turbine debate remains stagnant

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HENDERSON — Despite the involvement of the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, the debate between the town and the developer on the placement of a wind turbine in the town’s Agricultural District 3 has left little room for compromise.

The 10-kilowatt wind turbine generator, proposed to be placed on property at 11375 Whitney Road, would be on farmland owned by Harvey K. and Susan L. Grimshaw.

Hearings about the project with the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals have been delayed more than three months, and another hearing scheduled for today appears to be shelved.

Sherret E. Chase, president of Chase Construction Management Inc. and contractor for the project, has argued the 2010 town law banning all commercial and private wind-energy towers does not apply to the proposed turbine.

In Mr. Chase’s view, the turbine’s use as a part of farm operations would lead it to fall under state agriculture rules, and outside of the town’s jurisdiction.

“It should be exempt ... end of discussion,” Mr. Chase said. “Their law doesn’t pertain.”

He added that by preventing the project from proceeding, the town and the board were “anti-farming.”

Joseph Morrissey, an Ag & Markets spokesman, said the town had been sent two letters outlining the department’s concerns, specifically on the town’s prohibition of wind turbines in certified agricultural districts.

A part of the department’s responsibilities is protecting farmers from local laws that it feels would unreasonably restrict farming activity.

The spokesman said the town has responded both orally and in writing that it wants to work with the department, and the two parties are in discussions to resolve the issue.

Mr. Morrissey said that in the past, the department has worked out compromises with municipalities specifically about wind turbine restrictions.

Gerald Tackley, the ZBA’s chairman, said he has heard conflicting analyses on how to deal with the request.

“There’s some gray area in this,” Mr. Tackley said. “One department said one thing, one department says another.”

Without a clear course to act, he said, the board is sticking with the advice of the town attorney that a long-form environmental assessment from the property owner is necessary.

“Where it’s going to go from there, I really don’t know,” Mr. Tackley said.

He disputed Mr. Chase’s assessment that the board in its actions is acting against farmers.

“We’re not against farmers,” Mr. Tackley said. “That’s the bulk of our community.”

Mr. Chase said he hoped discussions between the two parties would resume by next week.

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