EASTHAM – A big turnout is expected at 2 p.m. Friday when the Energy Committee meets in town hall with neighbors and abutters to the town property being considered for the placement of up to four wind turbines.
The turbines would be erected on two parcels of land off Nauset Road at Railroad Avenue, bordered on the west by the electric utility lines and the Cape Cod Rail Trail, on the north by Wellfleet; and on the east by Oak Leaf Road, Kaits Way, Cross Cart Way, and Cape Cod National Seashore. The site is near a cell tower, the former Tilcon plant and gravel pits.
Town Administrator Sheila Vanderhoef said, “We’ve received a lot of e-mails and I think there’ll be a big turnout.”
Selectman Russ Sandblom agreed. “I think people were half listening to the talk about it before, but now they are listening.”
Fliers urging residents to attend today’s meeting were displayed inside the North Eastham post office. The flier, which is unsigned, states that each of the four 400-foot turbines will be higher than a four-story building, and that hundreds of trees will be cut down to accommodate them. It claims the blades, with their methodical thumping, will “ruin the peace and quiet of North Eastham” and many will be unable to sleep with their windows open. “Your taxes will not be going down,” the flier states. “Your electric bill will not be going down!” And the project, the flier states, “will hurt local residents far more than it helps them.”
Kevin Holland owns the Viking Shores Motel on Route 6, at the corner of Nauset Road. The motel would be in the shadow of one of the turbines. Holland said realtors are not pleased with the proposed project, and the people who live near them are concerned their property values will plummet.
“In this area, people do not like the proposal at all,” said Holland, who can’t attend the meeting due to a conflict. “I know a lot of those who live in the proposed area, even the part-time residents, are going up to Hull to look at the one there, and wind turbines are not good in a residential district.” The wind turbine in Hull “has dropped real estate values so that what was a residential area is now like a slummy area,” he said.
However, Hull assistant assessor Dave Beck said in a 2004 letter to their town manager that the town’s wind turbines have had no negative effect on real estate prices since January 2002, when they began operating.
Two residents of Oak Leaf Lane turned out at the committee’s Jan 12 meeting to express their concerns about the project. One of them, Andrew Wells, told committee members he wanted assurances that every board in town would take into consideration the possible adverse impacts the turbines would have on people.
The committee, within a few weeks, plans to seek proposals from developers willing to build the towers. A developer would lease the land from the town, and the town would receive payment every year from the developer in the same way the town now receives about $200,000 a year for the cell tower that is on town land. The developer would own the power generated by the turbines and would sell it to the grid.
Robert Eriksson of Minnesota, who owns a summer house on Cross Cart Way, wrote to selectmen about his concerns (See Guest Commentary, Page 29). He said he was never notified about the public information sessions, but Jack Slavin, the town staff member who is working with the energy committee, and Brian Eastman, chairman of the energy committee, said this was not the case, and the town sent him proof of this.
Eriksson said the only financial benefit the town would receive is the lease money, “and even if it were a million dollars a year, that would not cover what we would lose. We would lose the natural beauty of the Cape. A lease payment seems a minimal benefit to the town considering what is at stake here.”
The committee held two prior information sessions, one just for abutters, the other for the general public, last November and December.
Slavin said 600 letters were sent off to abutters prior to the Nov. 18 meeting to discuss the projects. About 40 people turned out at the November meeting for abutters, and close to 100 people turned out for the Dec. 2 meeting, which was open to all residents.
Slavin said last fall they decided to send letters to everyone who lives within a half mile of the proposed turbines. The letters the town sent off for Friday’s meeting went to 170 property owners who live within 300 feet of the proposed sites, and certified letters went off to a small number of people whose homes are closer than 300 feet to the proposed turbines.
Holland shares Eriksson’s concern that the turbines will destroy the rural character of Eastham.
“Eastham is not big enough to hide them, like they can hide them in Germany, but in Germany, they are out in the middle of nowhere,” Holland said.
Eastman said he’s looking forward to today’s meeting. “Our purpose in holding this meeting is to listen to what everyone has to say, and maybe there will be new information out there that we haven’t considered yet,” he said.
Eastman said, for example, that the town may not actually own one of the parcels proposed for the project. “That would be nice information for us to hear, if true, so let’s talk about it. … That’s why we are doing a survey and a title search,” he said. “If anyone has any information about that, it would be very valuable to us.”
Eriksson, in his commentary, said the members of the committee would not propose a turbine in their own back yards. That’s nonsense, Eastman said. “I’d put one in my back yard if I could, but I don’t have enough space. I would love to get free energy ““ who wouldn’t? I’m eager to get new information at this meeting, and we will have a simulation of what the people on Oak Leaf Road would see from their homes, which would probably just be the top of the blades if they looked closely, since it would be so far away. I’m excited about the meeting,” he said. “Perhaps we’ll have a chance to learn something we have not heard before, and if anyone has information that the town does not own one of these parcels, I hope they’ll let us know.”
The committee, he said, is planning to take citizens off-Cape by bus to see the two turbines in Hull, which are 387 feet tall.
The proposal faces a number of hurdles before it could move forward, such as zoning changes and town meeting approval.
By Marilyn Miller
The Cape Codder
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