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A missed opportunity in Charlestown

April 8, 2011

We reported last week that the Charlestown Town Council approved an amended version of the zoning ordinance that defines wind generator towers and systems. And we were glad to see that the council was able to move relatively quickly in getting this approved.

Its members voted at their first official meeting last November to have the Planning Commission look over the ordinance again to clean it up and provide what turned out to be tighter restrictions.

Additionally at that same meeting, the council instituted a four-month moratorium on wind energy facility applications. The moratorium was four months long – and not six months as originally proposed – as a means of ensuring that the town could utilize a $750,000 grant to build turbines in Ninigret Park.

The council learned of this grant money when it was approached by the Washington County Regional Planning Council to construct the turbines. It was made clear that the energy produced could be used to offset costs incurred throughout the town's municipal and Chariho Regional School District buildings.

Considering that the moratorium was shortened from its proposed length to not impede the planning council's project, we can't help but wonder why the Town Council voted to institute a new, six-month moratorium at its meeting in March. This move effectively killed the town's chances of receiving the aforementioned grant to construct the turbines in Ninigret as the grant comes with a completion deadline of March 2012.

We completely understand and respect the wishes to not have any wind energy facilities applications come forward, especially considering the ongoing controversy with the Whalerock proposal.

But why not make an exception for the joint project with the planning council so it could move forward as planned? It's true that $750,000 might not cover all of the costs for the turbines, but now the town won't be receiving any of that money. And yes, some might argue that such funds could possibly be available in the near future as our country moves toward using alternative energy more and more.

But that's not a guarantee.

What is a guarantee, though, is that Charlestown could have realized some cost savings if this project wasn't nixed for the time-being. Even if it does come back, who knows where the money will come from. And who knows if the town will even be receptive to such an idea at that point.

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