Chilmark selectmen will hire an engineering consultant to review two wind turbine projects planned for working farms on South Road.

The town selectmen voted to hire the consultant at their meeting Tuesday night after discussion about an appeal by neighbors of building permits issued recently for the Allen Farm and Grey Barn to put up wind turbines.

The Chilmark zoning board of appeals will hold a public hearing on the appeal on Jan. 19.

Because the turbines are a few inches under 150 feet in height, no review is required by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. The Allen Farm is planning to build a 149.5-foot turbine, while the Grey Barn’s proposed turbine measures 149 feet, nine niches.

Selectmen said the consultant review is justified. “We’re not in the position to not support the [zoning board of appeals]; if they want to make a fair judgment they need to be able to have the information to make that fair judgment,” selectman Frank Fenner said. “We want them to be able to do that for everybody.”

Memorandums from special town counsel Eric Wodlinger said the board’s ruling hinges on how much electricity produced will be used for agricultural purposes. The farms must use at least 51 per cent of the electricity from the turbines in order to meet an agricultural exemption that excuses them from town oversight. Allen Farm owners Clarissa Allen and Mitchell Posin and Grey Barn owners Eric and Molly Glasgow will be required to provide their electric bills for the past two years in order to complete the report.

Ms. Allen, who attended the meeting, questioned the wisdom of the town spending $7,200 on a consultant. And she balked at the request for detailed information from the farm about its electricity use in a short period of time. “I’m not in a position to tell you when I could get this information to you,” Ms. Allen said.

Mr. Fenner stood firmly behind the wisdom of hiring a consultant. “You need someone who really understands this to do the analysis,” Mr. Fenner said.

In other business, construction is set to begin in early January on the new connecting pier in Menemsha after the Chilmark selectmen awarded the contract to C. White Marine.

The Danvers marine contractor was the low bidder with a $1.4 million proposal to rebuild the pier destroyed in the July 12 Coast Guard boathouse fire. At a special town meeting in September Chilmark voters approved $1.5 million for the pier work.

“This project appears to be going along very nicely and it always was a challenge that we would accomplish this before Memorial Day,” selectman and board chairman Warren Doty said. “It looks like it’s a real possibility.”

All work done in the water will be completed by April 1, with a final completion date of May 15.

Selectmen also learned that The Nature Conservancy may donate a 15-foot Boston Whaler to the town. Shellfish constable Isaiah Scheffer told the selectmen if they are awarded the boat, he would use it for the oyster project in Tisbury Great Pond.

“We’re not sure if we’ve been awarded it, but . . . one of the contractors [on Nantucket] has been using it for personal use and it was paid for by The Nature Conservancy so they wanted it to go to somebody who’s doing good work,” Mr. Scheffer said. “It’s free, you can’t beat it.”

Mr. Scheffer also told the board about a new Islandwide shell recycling program aimed at helping build oyster reefs in needed areas. Jessica Kanozak plans to go to restaurants across the Vineyard to collect discarded oyster shells.

“There’s been a push to reclaim the shell that goes to restaurants every year, rather than go into trash,” Mr. Scheffer said. “The oyster market used to be a shucked market, now we have a half-shell market and most of the shells are shucked in restaurants right there and discarded in the trash. It will be an experimental exchange to see if it’s possible to do.”

Mr. Scheffer and the selectmen agreed to set up a locked area at the old landfill for storing the recycled shells.