The town is in a bit of a logjam while awaiting a sound study on the two industrial wind turbines off Arsene Street.
Spokesperson Joe Ferson of the state Department of Environmental Protection said Tuesday it hasn’t set up a timetable yet for a sound study in Fairhaven.
“Not as yet,” he said. “We’re working on it. We hope to have it as soon as possible.”
It’s been several weeks since Fairhaven’s Board of Health asked for a sound study. On Tuesday, health agent Pat Fowle said she hadn’t receive word yet from the DEP with a start date.
Ms. Fowle said when she talked to Laurel Carlson of the DEP about a week ago, Ms. Carlson, who was in Falmouth, didn’t know when she would be starting the study in Fairhaven.
Meanwhile, Selectman Robert Espindola received a “yes-no” sounding opinion from special counsel Kopelman & Paige on whether he would be violating state ethics rules if he voted on turbine-related issues or expressed opinions on them.
It was kind of boiler plate. Attorney Lauren Goldberg said Mr. Espindola did not seem to have a financial interest in the turbines and thus would not be violating state ethics rules. But she said he still might want to recuse himself under certain scenarios and should file a disclosure because of his previous involvement with the lawsuit.
The opinion was sent to the state Ethics Commission and Mr. Espindola is waiting for word back before weighing in on the turbines at board meetings.
The dilemma stems from his involvement in the lawsuit against the turbines up until just before April’s town election. Mr. Espindola lives 1,850 feet from them. If he can’t vote, however, that leaves the board with two members who could split their votes.
Meanwhile, the turbines spin. Just driving around Route 6 and Sconticut Neck Road, a driver in a quiet car like mine doesn’t hear any noise. There is a whish sound when you are on the bike path near them.
Bikers and runners watched them spin one day and expressed general support. A large number of residents who live near them, however, have complained about the noise and other issues.
The election should have given town officials a strong message about approaching such projects with more public debate in the future.
Mr. Espindola was elected by a wide margin — about 400 votes — over his nearest challenger. Voters knew he was involved in Windwise, although many said they voted for him not because of his opposition, but because they knew him personally and respected his integrity.
Fairhaven voters sent a message in April that they want more openness in town government. Mr. Espindola has already made a contribution by pushing for more openness at selectmen’s meetings. Recently, he forced a discussion with Blue Sky Power on the landfill solar project to be held in open session.
Dr. Barbara Acksen, who also has been involved with Windwise, was also elected, as was a Windwise candidate for School Committee. Ms. Acksen has added her scientific expertise — much needed — to the Board of Health. And Mr. Espindola has asked thoughtful questions about the solar project on the landfill.
Democracy should be an open process with town officials seeking a wide spectrum of expertise. Too much that affects voters is done in executive session. And too often town officials seem to think they know best.
Sumul Shah of Fairhaven Wind LLC has never returned a phone call from The Advocate about the wind turbines. Now he reportedly won’t do a mitigation proposal until he gets the results of a noise study from the state. According the The Standard-Times, he is criticizing the people who have filed complaints, saying many of them are involved in the lawsuit.
Ms. Fowle said the Board of Health has received more complaints since the 130 tallied a few weeks ago and hopes to tally them later this week.
Some of the complaints come from residents involved in the lawsuit and some may have filed multiple complaints. But the complaints and the radius their properties make around the turbines need to be carefully studied, not discounted.
The state Legislature is considering whether to impose greater setbacks from residences and the town’s Planning Board will be, too.
At some point, there will doubtless be a mitigation plan and perhaps the turbines will be shut down at night.
It’s unfortunate, though, that it is taking so much time for residents to get any clear answers.