FREEDOM – Perrin Todd’s home near the wind turbine site in Mars Hill has been invaded, not by thieves or pests, but something equally annoying.
“It’s a very troubling noise,” Todd told the town’s board of appeals at Thursday’s meeting. “It’s a disturbing noise.”
Attorney Ed Bearor, who represents Steve Bennett and others who are appealing the planning board’s December decision to allow three electricity-generating turbines on Beaver Ridge, wrapped up his argument on Thursday, leaving the decision of whether to overturn the planning boards decision in the hands of the board of appeals. Todd, whose home is 2,100 feet removed from the nearest turbine, more than double the distance of the home closest to the proposed Beaver Ridge turbine, urged the board to use greater caution than town officials in Mars Hill had used.
“My word is a word of caution,” he said. “Please allow due diligence.” But Todd’s experience in Mars Hill does not necessarily reflect what home owners in Freedom will experience, said Richard Silkman, a partner at Portland-based Competitive Energy Services, which hopes to erect the three turbines. Sound studies conducted prior to the Mars Hill project concluded that 45 homes in that community would experience noise levels beyond the 45 decibel threshold and 18 of those homes would experience noise in excess of 55 decibels.
Moreover, said code enforcement officer Jay Guber, the lay of the land in the two communities make comparisons untenable.
“The topography is nothing like what we’ve seen here in Freedom,” Guber said.
“I’m sure if we get into Mars Hill we’ll find hundreds of facts that differentiate it from Freedom,” Silkman added.
The planning board based its approval on scientist Anthony Rogers’ report that the noise produced by the Beaver Ridge turbines would fall within the town’s limits, but Diane Winn, who has studied Rogers’ report, told the appeals board the findings were incomplete, in part because Rogers never considered ambient noise.
“The sound study does not demonstrate the project can meet the noise ordinance,” Winn said. Bearor argued against the project on other fronts, as well. Assistant Fire Chief Dave Bennett, in a letter to the planning board in November, wrote that the town could not provide fire and rescue service as required in the ordinance because the nacelle, the cell that houses the generator and other equipment as the turbine spins, is more than 200 feet in the air.
“We have no way to fight a fire in a nacelle of that height,” Dave Bennett said.
“This is pretty straightforward stuff,” Bearor added. “The ordinance requires the developer to ensure the town can provide fire and rescue services.” Silkman countered that the nacelle comes with its own fire suppression equipment and that his company would offer training for fire fighters. “The issue of fire suppression and rescue service is something the town can deal with,” Silkman said.
By Craig Crosby
Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel
Friday, February 9, 2007
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