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WindWise Fairhaven blows open door of closed session  

FAIRHAVEN – An expected closed-door meeting between the selectmen and two wind consultants turned into a lengthy public forum Monday night after members of WindWise Fairhaven crashed the meeting.

Selectmen wanted to meet with consultants George Aronson and Barry Sheingold in executive session to discuss the viability of a $7 million proposal to erect two turbines on rented town land near Little Bay, not far from homes and near the town’s bike path. Land deal negotiations are allowed in executive session under the state’s Open Meeting law.

But about 30 people filled the meeting room and invited television cameras to the session, putting selectmen and the consultants on the spot.

“We are not against wind power, but we have some concerns about the turbines and where they’re going to go,” said group member Kenneth Pottel. “We just think a lot of things need to be fleshed out.”

Selectmen are expected to set up public meetings soon and decide whether to bring a land lease request for the turbines before Town Meeting.

“It’s going to be good to hear from them,” Mr. Pottel said.

Developer James Sweeney, who didn’t attend Monday’s meeting because he was told it would be in executive session, yesterday said the group led by selectmen candidate Ann Ponichtera DeNardis is a classic case of “not in my back yard” and is spreading misinformation about the proposed project.

Mr. Sweeney said the group is trying to “knock this out” with “scare tactics,” by saying, for example, the turbines would be placed on protected wetlands, which is not the case.

“They came up with items that are not substantiated,” Mr. Sweeney said.

WindWise has called on the town to erect its own turbines and to look at other locations. The group has created an Internet page at www.windwisefairhaven.com.

During Monday’s discussion, participants raised concerns about noise, the size of the turbines, impact on property values and birds, blinding strobe effects at sunset, and collapsing blades over the bike path.

“I don’t know how to respond to people who say the blades are going to kill their kids,” said Jeffrey W. Osuch, town executive secretary. “I don’t know where you start with facts and fiction. People just talk off the top of their head.”

CCI proposes erecting two Vestas V82 turbines on leased town land near its water treatment plant. Each tower would measure 262 feet to the hub and each rotor 269 feet in diameter.

Direct connectivity to the town’s big electricity users and wind speeds near the water were major deciding factors in selecting the site for the project, officials have said.

The towers would power the water treatment plant, the Department of Public Works buildings, and the senior and recreation center building. Excess would be sold to the pool of electricity on the regional grid.

CCI has estimated the towers could save the town at least $50,000 in electricity costs per year.

Additional revenue to the town will come from the land lease, taxes and royalties, for a total of about $150,000 a year initially, Mr. Sweeney said.

Consultants Monday told selectmen the project is “very viable” overall.

But Town Meeting must first approve the 20-year lease of the town land before the project can proceed. Selectmen have not yet decided whether to submit a Town Meeting article.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sweeney and WindWise continue to trade accusations.

Yesterday, Mr. Sweeney denied ever telling Mrs. DeNardis that maintenance of the wind turbines wouldn’t be his company’s concern, as recently published. “Who would ever say that?” he asked. “Like anyone trying to create good PR would say something like that. It is my problem. If it does break down we have a maintenance contract with the manufacturer, who is the number one manufacturer in the world.”

Mr. Sweeney said he briefly talked with Mrs. DeNardis after a meeting three weeks ago.

At the time he asked if she had seen a wind turbine. She said no.

“It’s pretty sad when you’re opposed to something and you haven’t even seen one,” he said.

WindWise, on the other hand, has accused Mr. Sweeney of minimizing the noise impact from the turbines by saying that the area is noisier than the Maine community recently portrayed in a press article about the negative impact of a wind farm there.

“His approach is a little disingenuous,” Mr. Pottel said. “We want to work with the town, we’re not interested in working with this developer. He wants only one thing, to make money.”

By Joao Ferreira
Standard-Times staff writer

southcoasttoday.com

28 March 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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