Carmelites fight on for Asnebumskit property
Theyve appealed to the courts of law, but now the Teresian Carmelites of Worcester are appealing to the court of public opinion in a case that begs the David vs. Goliath analogy.
Brother Dennis Wyrzykowski, prior of the four-person non-profit order, is accusing the multi-billion dollar Boston-based American Tower Corporation of pure greed after the company refused to honor a purchase and sales agreement to sell a 99-acre parcel in Paxton to the order. The company signed the purchase and sales agreement in April 2005, giving the fundless group six months to raise the $230,000.
With funds miraculously in hand just before the closing date, the Teresian Carmelites sent in a check, and hoped to move one step closer to what Bro. Wyrzykowski said would be a peaceful haven for the small religious community. But the previous May just after signing the purchase and sales, the prospect of achieving a larger mission had surfaced for the property: Bro. Wyrzykowski met with the town of Paxton and Massachusetts Technology Collaborative representatives regarding the possibility of siting wind turbines on the hill.
The site had been judged a prime one after a 2003-04 wind study on the hill showed, the wind speed there is quite high and [they] consider this location to be one of the best possible sites for wind turbines in the state, according to correspondence from MTC Renewable Energy Markets Manager Martha Broad.
Those turbines would be erected with the goal of supplying power for the Low-Income Affordability Network; two 1.5 Megawatt-size turbines could supply enough power for 1,000 homes, Broad told Bro. Wyrzykowski. Power could be purchased by the town of Paxtons Municipal Light Department as well.
That added benefit was a gift from God, said Bro. Wyrzykowski. The order that includes only four at this time hoped to expand to more than a dozen or so in a green building on the side of a hill in Paxton, the town of peace.
News that power could be generated to help others would have been, to anyone, icing on the cake; to Bro. Wyrzykowski it was heavenly confirmation of the rightness of the place. To American Tower, Bro. Wyrzykowski believes, the green glow was not environmental, but financial.
That October American Tower requested an extension on the closing date to November, then asking to renegotiate and offering instead, a lease on the property because they wished to develop the property themselves for wind energy, Bro. Wyrzykowski says. An attorney for the company also said at the time that they were having trouble solving a lease agreement with a company that leased a tower on the site, Industrial Communications.
Whether that lease agreement discussion was an impediment to the sale was much discussed by several attorneys for American Tower and the Teresian Carmelites in 2005. But a lease of the 99 acres by the Teresian Carmelites or the sale of a portion of the property to anyone who wished to make a profit on the wind turbines would not have met the Carmelites goals, Bro. Wyrzykowski says. Leaving the community to have to renegotiate the lease and giving up the opportunity to provide power to the poor were unacceptable alternatives.
Without an acceptable agreement in hand, American Tower refused to execute the signed purchase and sales agreement; the Carmelites filed suit in Worcester Superior Court on December 19, 2005. Industrial Communications also entered the court case after the Carmelites filed suit.
David vs. Goliath
Since then, Bro. Wyrzykowski says, two companies with assets in the millions and billions have drawn out a court case in the hope of draining the orders meager assets. We are so in debt, Bro. Wyrzykowski says. Theyre exhausting our resources. Theres a sense of righteous indignation to Bro. Wyrzykowskis statements, as well: the rocky, steep property was on sale for several years without an interested buyer, and was even granted a reduction in taxes by Paxtons Board of Assessors due to the sites apparent uselessness as a commercially developable property. At the time of negotiations, Bro. Wyrzykowski says, no one else was interested in the property. The 99-acres parcel that American Tower agreed to sell to the Teresian Carmelites was going for cheap: $230,000.