Monday, May 16, 2011

Solar sanity outshines gloom and doom

Town Manager John Musante addresses Town Meeting

UPDATE: So I feel like I had ring side seats to Custer's Last Stand last night as the "fight" put up by concerned neighbors was far less effective than the blond haired General in search of glory. And the final results exactly the same. Utter, devastating, defeat.

When NIMBY general Rich Spurgin's first amendment, requiring a minimum financial return threshold be guaranteed, failed so miserably the handwriting was etched on the wall in neon spray paint.
Professor Spugin leads the ill-fated charge

Spurgin's second amendment--and that was a mistake in not leading with your best case--concerning supposed "safety" issues fared even worse, although that's hard to imagine going down any lower in support.

So very far-and-away overwhelming that not a single member dared to voice "I doubt it" to force a standing vote (rules of town meeting require a standing vote if even a single member doubts the voice vote.)

Now of course the neighbors will resort to Plan B and hire an attorney who will file a case in landcourt something about this being for all intents and purposes a "taking by eminent domain" as their expensive property will no longer be as useful to them as the 'Oh Happy Day' they originally purchased it.

And so it goes in the People's Republic, where the sun seldom sets on discussions of self interest.

ORIGINAL POST (last night):

After a contentious two hour debate with opponents raising the spectre of an environmental disaster and more mundane concerns over the financial uncertainty of locking into a 30 year deal, and proponents trumpeting the $1 million annual net gain to the treasury via energy savings and equipment taxes while reducing the towns carbon footprint, Amherst Town Meeting this evening voted overwhelmingly to allow Town Manager John Musante the authority to enter into a long-term contract with Blue Wave Capital to construct a 4.75 megawatt solar farm on the old landfill.
A packed Town Meeting

Neighbors around the targeted site quickly organized resistance to the ambitious long term project and jam packed a public meeting in early April to bicker and snicker at town officials, started a website laden with doomsday predictions, purchased a half-page in last week's Amherst Bulletin, direct mailed material to all town meeting members and some even joined that legislative body via the most recent election.

Dave Keenan speaking against the deal while using a prop

A visibly angry Vince O'Connor speaking against the article after being interrupted by a "point of order" when he mentioned how his protest resume included Seabrook Nuclear Plant in the late 1970s and a draft resistance arrest in the mid 1960s resulting in federal prison time.

The old trot out the kids and dog routine

Now that the first big hill has been successfully scaled, the next step is for the Town Manager to come up with a contract that will be approved by the Select Board (the executive branch) and for the state Department of Environmental Protection to give final approval for using the highly regulated landfill as a solar farm. Both safe bets.

The next major mountain to climb is getting the Zoning Board of Appeals to issue a Special Permit, which requires a unanimous vote. In 2002 the ZBA voted down (2-1) the town's proposal to increase the height of the newer (now closed) landfill by ten feet which would have generated millions of dollars in revenues to the town.
ARTICLE 24. Authorize Term of Lease for Old Landfill (Select Board)

To see if the Town will vote to authorize the Town Manager to lease all or any portion of the Old Landfill across Belchertown Road from the existing Transfer Station from time to time by one or more leases for such term of years up to 30 years and for such consideration as the Town Manager shall determine, for the purpose of installing and operating thereon a solar array for electric power generation and distribution, and to authorize the Town Manager to grant such easements in, on, under and across over said land for utility and access purposes, as reasonably necessary to install and operate such a solar array, and further to authorize the Town Manager to enter into a power purchase agreement with any lessee of such property to purchase all or a portion of the electricity production of the solar array and to enter into an agreement with the local utility to participate in the Net Metering program pursuant to the Acts of 2008, c. 169, §78, the so-called Green Communities Act, as may be amended.


Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Most Eloquent Speaker:

Julie Marcus, by a country mile.

Anonymous said...

Tierkel gave us permission to vote "yes".

What weight class would we find the steel cage death match of Vince O'Connor versus Jim Smith? How dare Jim interrupt Vince's Reveries of Radicalism, his self-indulgent trip down Memory Lane. No, very few of us have been to federal prison as you have, Vince. Thanks for the firm grasp of the obvious.

Ed said...

I still can't understand why the newer == and quite environmentally correct landfill was shut down. Like, ummm, don't you folks know what trash disposal costs????

LarryK4 said...

Because it reached the height limit the town presented in the original permit application to the ZBA.

Neighbors who purchased homes on Logtown Road, fully aware of the landfill of course, had a legitimate gripe when they complained that the town was changing the deal by suddenly making the landfill higher.

One member of the ZBA agreed (Chair Keri Heitner) and that was that.

Anonymous said...

Solar/P.C. blind faith outshines DEP's own documented evidence of worsening contamination.

Even better, everyone who spoke in favor of the Article - and against the amendments that would have guaranteed a minimum financial return to the town, or reaffirmed adherence to the existing permit conditions - got to declare his advanced degrees or PC credentials. "Greener than thou!"

The best specious argument, and it carried the day, was "we have to approve the Article in order for the process to move forward" - "we can't conduct safety evaluations unless we first give the Town Manager the right to execute a secret deal." - "we have to execute the deal in order to find out what's in it."

Musante, Pelosi, all the same to me.

Anonymous said...

Eloquent but dishonest Julie Marcus failed to mention that she is conflicted operating a firm, New England Environmental, that bid initially on the project, and hopes to have future business potentially subcontracting to Blue Wave Capital.

A small thing.

Tom Porter said...

Larry, this situation seems no different, with neighbors of the old landfill purchasing homes based on a deed restriction between Commonwealth and Town - a condition of the capping grant - that limits future use of the landfill to recreational use.

Did I hear Mr. Musante comment that the restriction doesn't apply because the town failed to file it?


LarryK4 said...

Then perhaps those neighbors who purchased homes based on this phantom dead restriction should have asked to see it in writing.

Anonymous said...

Julie also employs Lyons Whitten, who moonlights as Chair of the Water Protection Committee and spoke - surprise! - in favor of the project.

Anonymous said...

Vince O'Connor is nothing more than a trust funder. That has had the luxury of flaking off cloaked as a "political activist" for most of his life. If he or many other of the trust funding elite had actually held real jobs for most of their life I would respect them, and their opinions much more.

Tom Porter said...

Thanks for the update, Larry.

Rich Spurgin's amendments were proposed for the purposes of seeking to guarantee a level of financial return to the town, and to guarantee a level of safety for the installation. You can debate whether the language was precisely correct, but the name-calling is a bit much. I thought he was asking Town Meeting to do what it's paid (!) to do: look out for the town's best interests, it often does. :-)

LarryK4 said...

To be perfectly honest Tom--speaking as someone who has been on the loosing end of many Town Meeting issues--last night was almost painful to watch.

It was the wrong battle, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Can't get any worse than that.

Tom Porter said...


James said...

Last nights meeting can be seen at

here is where to get the newest videos:

here is the awesome meeting list:

feel free to post any of these on the side of your blog (with the other links) and let me know if I can be of any help.

Anonymous said...

Does Jim Smith call out "point of order" every time Vince O'Connor speaks in Town Meeting?

I hadn't noticed, but it may be because I'm usually already in Bermuda by the time Vince has the microphone.....oh, those red sand beaches.

When Vince began shouting about wanting the Moderator to discipline Jim, I was just going through airport security on my way back, so I could be on time for the next speaker.