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Competitive Power Withdraws from Walpole

In a stunning turn of events, CPV has announced that they will not pursue a power plant project in Walpole. We appreciate the formal statement about their intentions since it will allow the town to move forward without the cloud of doubt that the project has cast over our future.

CPV Vice President Braith Kelly denied that difficulty securing financing for energy development projects was a factor in the cancellation, instead citing strong opposition within the community. But his message was mixed as he stuck to an old talking point, still claiming that a "small group of opponents" had turned the agenda against the company, and that they had been denied a fair opportunity to present their case to the community.

We remind Mr. Kelly that CPV held a series of secret meetings with members of our Board of Selectmen and with town RTMs, as well as a public forum attended by hundreds of Walpole residents and a smaller meeting with the East Walpole Civic Association. The company ran weekly newspaper advertisements and their spokespeople were quoted in dozens of articles in local papers. And who can forget the glossy mailer that was sent to every household in town?

The truth is that CPV had plenty of opportunities to present their case to the people of Walpole. If anything doomed the project, it was CPV's constant attempts to influence public officials in private meetings and their relentless campaign of misinformation to downplay the negative impact that their project would have on our community. They decimated their own credibility at every step, and fairly earned the mistrust of the entire town.

We can only hope they will apply the lessons learned here to their other projects, and embrace a more honest process in those communities.

Town Meeting to Again Consider Striking Any Lawful Use from the Zoning Bylaws.

Update: October 20, 2008

Town Meeting voted favorably this evening to remove Any Lawful Use from Walpole's zoning bylaws by a standing vote of 105 to 10. We would like to thank our RTMs for protecting the stability of our community by removing this loophole and making the Table Of Uses the final word on what types of businesses are welcome in Walpole.

Town Meeting will consider whether to finally strike the "Any Lawful Use" language from Walpole's zoning bylaws. This measure will remove a dangerous loophole from the zoning bylaws, and guarantee that the would-be developer of any project that is not explicitly allowed by our code would have to seek approval at Town Meeting.

This change narrowly failed passage at the Spring Town Meeting against the advice of the town's zoning rewrite consultants and the recommendations of the Planning Board, the Finance Committee, and the Board of Selectmen. At the October 2nd meeting of the Planning Board, the room was filled to capacity with citizens of Walpole, many of whom addressed the board to urge them to support removal of this language. Nobody spoke in favor of leaving the clause on the books, and the Town Administrator told the board that he was unable to identify a single business that had ever been granted a special permit under the provision.

In the days leading up to the Spring Town Meeting, Competitive Power Ventures met secretly with at least 30 RTMs to influence their votes on this matter. After the vote failed, CPV ran an ad in the Walpole Times to thank RTMs for "keeping the door open" by defeating the measure. Earlier this month, CPV filed an "Approval Not Required" plan with the Planning Board, which they later withdrew. CPV Vice President Braith Kelly said that "the formal purpose of the ANR plan is to grandfather the property under the current town zoning regulation," a move which shows once and for all that the company will exploit any legal technicality in order to circumvent the will of the people of Walpole.

We note that CPV does not own property in Walpole, and does not have formal standing to request an audience with RTMs. We further note that RTMs are bound under Massachusetts Law to represent the wishes of the townspeople who elected them:

"Representative Town Meetings function largely the same as an Open Town Meeting, except that not all registered voters can vote. The townspeople instead elect Town Meeting Members by precinct to represent them and to vote on the issues for them, much like a U.S. Representative votes on behalf of his/her constituents in Congress."

Because their power plant would exceed 100 megawatts, CPV is required to file with the state siting board before they can build. The company has repeatedly threatened the town that eliminating Any Lawful Use would leave them with no choice but to go to the state, but the truth is that they never had any other option. The siting process is lengthy and expensive, and the state will not place a power plant on top of a sole source aquifer without the explicit approval of the town whose water supply would be affected. CPV has not filed with the state because it would be futile for them to do so.

Any Lawful Use is not just about the power plant or CPV. There are build-able lots in every part of town that could be held hostage by a developer under this dangerous clause. The town has spent far too much time, energy, and money to fend off unwanted land use proposals that were invited into town by the "Any Lawful Use" loophole. It is time for the people to take control of the future of Walpole.

So please, call the RTMs in your voting precinct to ask them to support removal of "Any Lawful Use" from the bylaws.

Fall Town Meeting
Monday, October 20, 2008, 7:30 pm.
Walpole High School Auditorium

Solve the climate crisis, enhance our national security, and end our dependence on non-renewable energy sources.

We do not need to rely on expensive fossil fuels that pollute our environment, send our national treasure overseas, and draw us into wars to obtain these dwindling resources.

Within a single decade we can solve our nation's most pressing problems.


CPV Files with the Walpole Planning Board to Prolong the Threat of Any Lawful Use.

UPDATE: Friday, October 17, 2008

CPV attorney James Brady abruptly withdrew the company's Approval Not Required (ANR) filing just hours before the Planning Board was scheduled to meet. No reason was given for the sudden withdrawal.

UPDATE: Thursday, October 2, 2008

CPV appeared before the Planning Board to request action on their Approval Not Required (ANR) filing to subdivide the lot at 33 Industrial Road. The main meeting room was packed with a standing room only crowd estimated at 150 people.

CPV's ANR application was not accepted by the Planning Board at their October 2nd meeting, because the firm incorrectly identified the parcel of land as "33 Industrial Road, Westwood MA", thereby invalidating the application. State law is very clear on this point: the application must correctly identify the parcel in question. The Planning Board allowed CPV to withdraw the flawed ANR plan, and it is reported that the company will re-file a corrected application.

Subdividing this lot into two does not "protect the wetlands" as CPV has alleged, since the wetlands have already been delineated, and are already protected even as part of a larger industrial-zoned lot. These wetlands would still be adjacent to a 580 megawatt power plant, regardless of where the property line is drawn.

We call upon the Planning Board to reject CPV's frivolous application for this ANR, since it does not accomplish any significant goal other than to grandfather CPV's plan under the existing zoning bylaws, and since their application does not even meet the legal requirements for approval under the ANR statute. According to a local attorney who addressed the board, there is established legal precedent that the ANR process cannot be used simply for the purpose of freezing the zoning requirements.

In other business, the Planning Board voted 4-0-1 to recommend removal of Any Lawful Use from the zoning bylaws when Town Meeting convenes on October 20th. During their hearing, several residents spoke in favor of eliminating this language, drawing loud applause from the audience. Significantly, not a single person spoke in favor of keeping Any Lawful Use on the books. During the hearing, Town Administrator Michael Boynton said that the town had looked, but could not find a single business that had ever been granted a permit under this provision.

CPV has repeatedly claimed that they want to work with the town, and that they would "likely abandon the project" if the town did not welcome them. But this latest maneuver shows that they will do anything to circumvent our zoning and the wishes of the people in order to build their power plant. The people have spoken loud and clear - we do not want this power plant! It is time for CPV to finally take the hint.

Competitive Power Ventures will appear before the Walpole Planning Board on Thursday, October 2nd to file an "Approval Not Required" (ANR) plan with the town. The purpose of this filing is to grandfather CPV's power plant proposal under the existing zoning regulations, before Town Meeting has another chance to strike "Any Lawful Use" from the bylaws when they meet on October 20th.

CPV is asking to subdivide the 20-acre industrial parcel in order to separate the buildable acres from the remaining ones that have already been classified as wetlands. This administrative motion will give CPV a three year timeline in which to file a site plan under the existing zoning bylaws.

This latest maneuver shows just how important it is for the town to finally eliminate "Any Lawful Use" from the bylaws at the October 20th Town Meeting. Without this language, CPV would have been denied this avenue to shoehorn their proposal into our town. They would have one fewer option to override our desires as a community in their ruthless pursuit of this ill-conceived project.

Any Lawful Use threatens to attract undesirable businesses to the industrial, manufacturing, and highway zones in every part of town, and prevents our representatives at Town Meeting from having any say in whether these businesses can open shop. In light of recent reports that a second power plant developer is sniffing around town, we must act now to send a clear message about the kind of industries that are welcome on our soil.

Please contact the RTMs in your precinct to ask them to strike this dangerous clause from our zoning bylaws and put an end to the parade of obnoxious land use proposals that we have had to defend our community against.

At Last, the Truth from Competitive Power Ventures?

Every mailbox in Walpole received a glossy flyer from CPV in the days leading up to the June 7th 2008 town elections. According to the company, the democratic process is being subverted! Walpole citizens fear for their personal safety if they should dare to seek information from the company! These are very serious charges, and we will not rest until the truth has been exposed.

In case you tossed your brochure into the recycling bin without reading it, or for those who live in communities where CPV has not been quite so generous with information, we present the brochure here, for your enlightenment. We certainly wouldn't want to be accused of subverting democracy by suppressing your access to this information!

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CPV Admits Holding Private Meetings with Town Meeting Representatives

Braith Kelly, Competitive Power Ventures' Vice President and Public Affairs Counsel, has confirmed rumors that CPV met privately with small groups of Walpole RTMs to influence their votes on Special Town Meeting Article 2. CPV did not address the Town Meeting assembly as a whole or make any comments on the public record about Article 2, but they did sit down with a series of small groups of Town Meeting members to "talk about some of the critical issues," according to Kelly. CPV's only public comment on the matter was a newspaper ad they ran after the Town Meeting vote to thank dissenting RTMs for striking down important updates to Walpole's zoning bylaws.

Walpole Tax Relief Association member Kevin Foley facilitated one of these meetings with CPV, which took place on March 6th with some 30 RTMs in attendance. At the time, the WTRA was sending a mass mailing to all Walpole RTMs to argue against zoning bylaw changes that CPV regarded as unfavorable. The mass mailing did not openly promote the power plant or name CPV, but Mr. Foley later said that the March 6 meeting was held to get answers about the company's proposal in "an environment that was free of hostility." Mr. Foley maintains that "it wasn't a hidden thing" without explaining why this meeting wasn't openly advertised to all RTMs, or how he selected the invitees.

This is only the latest of CPV's many attempts to manipulate Walpole's public policy by influencing our public officials in private meetings. This is a special concern as we head into townwide elections on Saturday, June 7th. What is happening in CPV's back room this month?

UPDATE: Wednesday June 4, 2008

Ask and you shall receive. According to The Daily News Transcript, every household in Walpole can expect to receive a glossy flyer and a letter from Mr. Kelly in the mail. Critics of the company are questioning the timing of the mailing, due to arrive in homes during the three days leading up to town elections this Saturday, June 7th.

"At last, the truth" is the bold promise. CPV has been operating in Walpole for two full years already, but better late than never.

CPV has claimed that they want an open process with the town. We challenge CPV to disclose all contact they have had with town officials, as well as all contributions they have made to local civic organizations, student groups, athletic organizations, and private individuals in Walpole, and also to identify any internet postings made by their employees or contractors regarding the Walpole project. We further challenge all officeholders and candidates for office in Walpole to disclose any contact they have had with CPV or their agents about issues related to the power plant proposal.

We urge all voters to study the issues, learn about the candidates, and cast informed votes on June 7th.

Walpole Town Elections
Saturday, June 7th, 2008
Thanks for voting!

Election Results

Despite CPV's best efforts,
the election results prove that
the democratic process works
just fine here in Walpole.

Proposed 580-Megawatt Power Plant to be Sited in Walpole Massachusetts?

Competitive Power Ventures is trying to get permits to build a 580-Megawatt power plant in Walpole. The plant would be sited on top of the town's sole source aquifer, within 3/4 mile of an elementary school, and 1.4 miles from the high school and Turco Field.

The plant will draw up to 200,000 unreplaced gallons of water per day from the aquifer. A pair of 250-foot smokestacks will emit tons of pollutants associated with heart and lung disease, and spread them over a six to twelve mile area. Large amounts of hazardous chemicals will be stored on site.

The company maintained a low profile in Walpole while they quietly negotiated a binding option to purchase 20 acres of open land. Although the lot is zoned for industrial use, it is bounded by wetlands. The nearby Neponset river runs a short distance downstream toward all of the town's water wells.


Candlelight Vigil to protest Selectmen's meeting with CPV

Chairman Albert DeNapoli initially granted Competitive Power Ventures a 30-minute time slot during the Board of Selectmen Meeting that was held on Tuesday February 26th, 2008. This is an extraordinary reversal of a unanimous December resolution not to enter into "any discussions related to the locating of a Power Plant in Walpole."

But then shortly before the meeting, the Chairman abruptly removed CPV from the agenda citing a lack of quorum. Instead, CPV used our senior center inside the town hall to hold a press conference. Meanwhile, hundreds of people of all ages stood outside the town hall in a cold drizzle holding a candlelight vigil to show their opposition to the power plant.

We expect Chairman DeNapoli to reschedule CPV on the agenda at a future board meeting, so please send a message to the chairman to let him know how you feel about further meetings between the board and CPV.


Town Meeting considers Zoning Bylaw Rewrite

There was a Special Town Meeting on Monday, March 10th, 2008 to approve a set of changes to the Town of Walpole's zoning bylaws.

Article 1 passed easily by voice vote, formalizing a set of changes to the structure of the zoning bylaws. But despite 9-0-0 support from the Finance Committee, 4-0-0 support from the Planning Board, and 2-1-1 support from the Board of Selectmen, Article 2 did not prevail.

You can see how the RTMs in your precinct voted here.


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