EASTHAM – More than 100 people filled town hall Friday and aired their concerns about a proposed wind turbine project for North Eastham they fear will destroy the rural charm of town, diminish the value of the homes they plan to retire to, and pit them against the town in what may be legal battle to derail the project before it builds up any more steam.
The energy committee has formulated plans to build four, 400-foot tall wind turbines on a town site bordered by the bike trail, Nauset Road and Oak Leaf Road.
The speakers, many of them non-resident taxpayers, came prepared with documents to support their claims that wind turbines, particularly in a small town such as Eastham, will bring more problems than benefits to the town. They questioned information put out by the energy committee and its consultants, and questioned the process that led up to this point where they felt the committee was prepared to go to town meeting with a proposal.
Homeowner Larry Lewis was irritated by the brochure produced by the energy committee, which he called “propaganda.”
“We’ve been told the noise they make will be similar to a kitchen refrigerator,” he said. He and several others said they had already visited the South Shore town of Hull, where two wind turbines are in operation, and Lewis said they produced a noise like a “brick in a washing machine.”
“These turbines cannot be described as big,” he said. “They are immense. You can’t find structures like these on Cape Cod.
He said he’s identified 200 homes within the area of the proposed turbines that likely will see their property values “dramatically affected. There will be legal action,” he warned.
Bob Misterks, an engineer, said, said the turbines have been portrayed as “innocuous, like the quant little windmill on the green, but they are gargantuan monstrosities, completely out of scale for this area.” The Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown is 232 feet tall and these would be half again that size, he said. The Zakim Bridge in Boston is 83 meters tall “and the blade of these windmills have a diameter of 80 meters,” he said. The turbines dwarf all of these imposing structures, including the Statue of Liberty, which is 300 feet tall, he said. “The carelessness of this proposal is mind-boggling,” Misterks said.
Paul Lothrop, chairman of the board of health, came with a stack of papers documenting what he said were the bird kills, health issues, blade failures of turbines, and environmental dangers posed by them. “I believe you guys have got the right thing in mind, but Eastham, and perhaps the whole Cape, is the wrong place for this.”
Harold Gostin said the committee’s report failed to mention the nighttime rural background noise near turbines, and the omission of this, considering how rural the proposed siting area is, gives the impression that they are “cherry picking data,” he said. “Many of us feel that this project is being treated like a big sales project and we are not getting the other side of the story,” he said to applause. He pointed out the noise created by them often can’t be determined until they are in operation. “Many of us can listen to the sound of the ocean at night. I think it is very clear that once these turbines go up, we won’t be able to do that any more.”
Homeowner Francie Williamson, who would live within 800 feet if one of the turbines, said she knew nothing about the proposed project until a worker left a copy of The Cape Codder on her kitchen counter. “I was just in shock,” she said. “I had not heard anything about this project and when I went to my neighbors, no one I spoke to knew anything about it. The more I learned, the sicker I got about the whole idea.”
She attended the committee’s Dec. 2 meeting and said she was “shocked” to hear how quiet the turbines would be, according to the committee. “They kept saying Hull this and Hull that so my husband and I took a trip to Hull and when we got out of the car, I started crying. I was so shocked. It was so much worse than I could have ever imagined.” The noise of the blades “was horrible from two football fields away, and the neighborhood is boarded up, with abandoned, horrible looking buildings,” she said.
Lorit Lovensline said “I moved to a beautiful quiet place to retire. I can still hear the ocean at night.” But if the turbines go in, “My property value is going to go through the basement. If they didn’t’ put it in Nantucket Sound, whey do they think it is OK to put it in a quiet neighborhood of families? I don’t get it.”
Part-time resident Andrew Wells, whose Eastham home is within 760 feet of the turbines, suggested the town offer a homeowner protection plan which would compensate homeowners if the value of their homes goes down if wind turbines are built nearby.
While the committee has said that the turbines will only be visible through the tree lines in most locations, Philip Hesse, a developer, pointed out that the project would require the cutting of many trees.
Hesse also objected to the town leasing the land to a developer. “I can’t see why anyone would want to get involved with a project where you have little or no control over management and maintenance” he said.
Zoning changes would have to be approved in order for requests for proposals to wind turbine developers. A legal notice outlining those changes is in this week’s Cape Codder Codder (see pages 14 and 15). Spring town meeting voters this year would act on the proposed changes to the zoning bylaws.
The speakers received no answers to any questions they asked about the project, as at the beginning of the hearing energy committee chairman Brian Eastman said the committee would not be answering any questions. Eastman also objected to some speakers who implied that the committee had not been open in its deliberations and pointed out 2006 town meeting approved to lease the land for this project.
But Carol Martin, former administrative assistant to Town Administrator Sheila Vanderhoef, said it was two years ago that town meeting approved “the possible installation of a single turbine on a site behind town hall or one parcel, no bigger than one acre, in North Eastham.”
Eastman thanked the crowd for their input and said the committee would consider all the information presented. The committee has scheduled two more hearings on the proposal, Feb. 15 and 23 at town hall.
Upcoming energy committee meetings
Thursday, Feb. 15
Friday, Feb 23
Eastham Town Hall
Upcoming: Bus trip to view Hull wind turbines, Saturday, April 7
By Marilyn Miller
The Cape Codder
Monday, February 12, 2007
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