Lincoln group files second appeal

Posted March 01, 2010, at 9:24 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:05 p.m.

Not happy with how a Lincoln board and state court have stymied its efforts to challenge a proposed $130 million wind farm in the Lincoln area, the Friends of Lincoln Lakes is taking its case to the state’s highest court, the group’s attorney said Monday.

The Lincoln Planning Board on Dec. 1, 2008, issued a permit for First Wind of Massachusetts to put up 40 turbines, each generating 1½ megawatts, on ridgelines in Burlington, Lincoln, Lee and Winn.

The Friends of Lincoln Lake opposed the decision and appealed to the Lincoln Board of Appeals, who refused to hear the group’s challenge. The Friends then appealed that decision in state Superior Court and again were rebuffed.

Contrary to a 26-page decision issued by Superior Court Justice William R. Anderson early last month, Lynne Williams of Bar Harbor believes that the Friends group had proper standing to oppose the Lincoln Planning Board’s decision to approve the wind project.

“He essentially said I did not press it [the issue over the group’s standing] hard enough, and I have to respectfully disagree,” Williams said Monday.

The group opposes the project, saying it would emit sound and vibrations harmful to wildlife and people, lower land values, and disrupt the pastoral nature of Rollins Mountain.

First Wind has argued that its project meets or exceeds all state environmental requirements and that wind turbines have no adverse effect on land values.

Anderson rapped the group and Williams for making vague or irrelevant arguments and forcing the appeals board to play “a difficult game of connect the dots” by failing to establish the group’s legal identity in Town Council and planning board meetings that preceded the Dec. 1 vote.

“For reasons that are not clear, FOLL was unwilling to provide the appeals board with minimal evidence to memorialize its ‘party status,’” Anderson wrote.

Among the errors: The group’s incorporation papers named no group members. The group and Williams thwarted the appeals board’s attempts to legally certify group members’ identities during the board’s Jan. 8, 2009, meeting, Anderson wrote.

Group members did not want to hand over checks and other financial data disclosing their identities, and the identities of their contributors, Williams said, because Lincoln had a “very hostile” attitude toward the appeal at that point.

At the appeals board hearing, group members declined to provide paperwork identifying themselves — the “minimal evidence necessary” — because the form requested bank data they considered confidential, they said at the time. Several group members also dismissed the appeals board stipulation as silly bureaucratese, a stance they maintained for several months afterward.

But standing is crucial because it helps determine whether court petitioners have a proper stake in cases and identifies who is legally responsible for group actions. Anderson called the appeals board’s dismissal “an entirely avoidable result.”

Yet within Anderson’s argument, and at several points, he comes close to reaffirming the group’s position before going in other directions, Williams said. At one point, Anderson admitted that state laws and regulations regarding standing are very flexible, she said.

Williams also objects to rulings that would make appeals more difficult to make, saying that they would undercut the people’s right to have some control over the projects around them.

The appeal is the group’s second to the state supreme court. The first, heard in mid-February, challenged the project’s Department of Environmental Protection permit and the state law that fast-tracks approvals of wind turbine projects. The court has not ruled on that case yet.

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