Offshore Wind Opponents File Open Meeting Law Complaint Against Town

Jason Graziadei •

Offshore Wind Farm Kit Noble Photo 1
One of Vineyard Wind's turbines southwest of Nantucket. Photo by Kit Noble

An open meeting law complaint has been filed against the town related to a meeting of a relatively unknown work group dedicated to offshore wind energy development.

Val Oliver, the founding member and president of ACK For Whales, a group opposed to the ongoing construction of wind turbines southwest of Nantucket, filed the complaint late last week, alleging that the work group's meetings should be open to the public considering the agenda items and topics. Oliver stated that her organization was invited to attend last Wednesday's meeting of the Nantucket Offshore Wind Work Group by some of its members, only to be shut out and removed from the Zoom meeting when she tried to access it.

"The meeting was an important meeting as offshore wind development certainly impacts all property owners, business owners, residents and visitors," Oliver stated in her complaint.  "It is unclear if the OWWG has ever met as none of their meetings have been offered to the public. We were asked by several of the group's members if our organization would be attending yesterday's meeting, however we were unaware that a meeting was even scheduled as there was no notification of the meeting posted on the Town's website or calendars."

Oliver emphasized that her two citizen petitions for Nantucket's Annual Town Meeting (Articles 77 & 78, seeking to have the town withdraw from the Good Neighbor Agreement with Vineyard Wind and urging the town to seek authorization from voters to enter into any further agreements with offshore wind energy developers) were on the agenda for the work group's May 1 meeting.

"It was extremely important for our organization to be present," Oliver stated. "The OWWG includes elected Select Board Members as well as members of other governing bodies such as the Finance Committee. These discussions should include the public."

Town manager Libby Gibson told the Current that she was aware of the complaint but was focused on preparation and issues surrounding this week's Annual Town Meeting, so a formal response from the town would have to wait.

"Once we have had a chance to read and understand the complaint, we will respond," Gibson stated in an email to the Current. "A higher priority right now is Annual Town Meeting preparations.

According to the state Attorney General's office, "with certain exceptions, all meetings of a public body must be open to the public." But what constitutes a public body?

"While there is no comprehensive list of public bodies, any multi-member board,
commission, committee or subcommittee within the executive or legislative branches of state government, or within any county, district, city, region or town, if established to serve a public purpose, is subject to the law," according to the Massachusetts AG's office. "The law includes any multi-member body created to advise or make recommendations to a public body, and also includes the governing board of any local housing or redevelopment authority, and the governing board or body of any authority established by the Legislature to serve a public purpose."

According to the town's website , the Nantucket Offshore Wind Work Group includes the following members:

  • Mary Bergman, Nantucket Preservation Trust
  • Shantaw Bloise, Department of Culture & Tourism Director
  • Diane Coombs, Historic District Commission
  • Matt Fee, Select Board
  • Malcolm MacNab, Select Board
  • Pete Kaiser, Fisheries Representative for the County Commission of Nantucket
  • Andy Lowell, Shellfish Advisory Board
  • Stephen Maury, Finance Committee
  • Tom Montgomery, Nantucket Historical Commission
  • Joe Plandowski, Nantucket Conservation Commission
  • Joanna Roche, Maria Mitchell Association
  • Maureen Phillips, Madaket Residents Association, at-large
  • David Worth, at-large

"The Offshore Wind Work Group's mission is to help represent the best interests of the island to wind developers seeking to build windfarms offshore Nantucket," per the town's web site. The group meets to evaluate local environmental, economic, and/or visual impacts of the offshore wind farms being constructed off Nantucket, as well as to determine appropriate mitigation measures to offset perceived and assessed impacts, and negotiate for "tangible" community benefits.

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