Once a formal zoning application is filed, local and state laws generally require notice to the public and abutters and an opportunity for public comment, followed by a public hearing or series of hearings. At the conclusion of the public hearings, the board or commission will generally issue a written decision either approving or denying the proposed project. As noted above, a wind energy project developer should consult with local counsel with respect to the applicable public notification requirements. Failure to comply with all applicable public notification requirements could jeopardize the developer's applications for approval.
Local approvals typically include a list of conditions. The conditions generally specify how the developer must construct, operate, decommission, and mitigate the project. The conditions may also include legal restrictions or establish procedural requirements. If possible, the developer should review the conditions in approval draft form and negotiate the final language of the approval to ensure the conditions are feasible. When reviewing and negotiating proposed conditions, the developer should consider at least the following questions:
• Do the conditions of approval allow the permit to be transferred or assigned to someone else?
• What happens if the developer wants to modify an aspect of the project?
• Was the project proposed in phases? If so, all phases should be permitted, with clear timelines on how long each phase will last to avoid any discrepancies in the future.
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