CHARLESTOWN—The town council voted unanimously Monday to hire a lawyer to represent the town during the Whalerock hearing before the zoning board next week.
Last month, Superior Court Judge Kristin Rodgers granted developer Larry LeBlanc, president of Whalerock Renewable Energy LLC, permission to pursue the special use permit that would allow him to develop two 262-foot high wind turbines on an 81-acre parcel on a site just north of Route 1, on Kings Factory Road.
With Judge Rodgers’ ruling, next step in Whalerock’s application under the wind ordinance is for the application for a special use permit to be considered by the zoning board, which must be done prior to June 14, Rodgers ruled.
Rodgers remanded the case to the zoning board for further action, stating that no further review or action on the part of the planning commission is necessary before the zoning board considers the application. If a special use permit is granted, the application will then return to the planning commission for a complete site plan review, which Rodgers affirmed is merely advisory.
During the executive session on Monday, the council discussed the Whalerock litigation that has been ongoing for the last three years and all the effects it has on South County. The council agreed to authorize the town administrator to attend a zoning board meeting for interest in this matter and to hire a special legal counsel to represent the town at the zoning board hearing.
Whalerock will go before the Charlestown Zoning Board, at a special meeting and public hearing, seeking a special use permit on May 21 at 7 p.m. at Charlestown Elementary School.
In other business, the council unanimously approved an ordinance for taxation relief for disabled persons and an ordinance regarding elderly low income tax benefit programs.
“This is a change that helps disabled people so they don’t have to show up at town hall to apply for the same program year after year that they already paid for,” said Councilor Dan Slattery. “We don’t know anyone who has lost it 100 percent once they were given it. It seems silly to make someone who has difficulty moving around to come here to fill it out year after year.”
Slattery also explained the tax benefit program for the elderly explaining that a few years ago improvements were made to increase the amount of tax benefits in the $20,000 to $30,000 and below category. Because of social security adjustments, incomes have risen minimal amounts but still exceed the ceiling.
“It’s exceeded by $4 or $10 and will be thrown out of the program, making them unable to get the benefits,” said Slattery. “We want to make sure they still stay in the program. We would change calculations to include cost of living increases and then coming up with new figures. This was to try to make a change to benefit people at lowest income levels of our town and preserve tax rebates for these individuals.”
In other business, the council also discussed Ordinance 357 amending Chapter 158- parks, beaches and recreation area prohibiting smoking. The council addressed public concerns regarding the enforcement and location of the ordinance for if and when it passes during the public hearing on June 10.
The council also voted 4-0-1 to adopt the fiscal year 2013-2014 budget including revisions. Council President Thomas Gentz, discussed the cuts to the Chariho budget and making it level funded to save money. This reduces the budget by $167,510, which is 8 cents on the tax rate.
Finally, the council encouraged the citizens of Charlestown to vote in the education referendum earlier this week.
“I encourage all the citizens to vote in the education referendum tomorrow,” said Slattery. “There is a great deal of misinformation being spread in other towns. It’s level-funded and there’s no reason to oppose this budget. Go vote ‘yes’ tomorrow.”
With reports from Maria Shanahan