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Council agrees to take another look at turbine law

NEWBURYPORT – The City Council will re-examine the ordinance they passed last summer that regulates the installation of wind turbines in the city. Councilor Greg Earls raised questions about setbacks allowed under the law, density and how the public is notified about the possibility of a structure going up in their neighborhood.

Councilors unanimously agreed to send the measure back to its Planning and Development subcommittee after about 15 neighbors from the Back Bay neighborhood spoke in favor of having the council take another look at the issue.

Last fall, several neighbors of Mark Richey Woodworking filed an appeal of the city’s decision to grant Richey approval to construct a 292-foot, 600-kilowatt turbine on his property. The legal case, in which the city was a party, was resolved a few weeks ago out of court.

The turbine, which went up in January, began spinning last week. Neighbors told councilors the new turbine dominates their views, bringing flicker and noise.

Tom Joy, 51 Pond St., said a new look won’t correct the current turbine, but urged councilors to do it to keep from “inflicting on another neighborhood” what his is now experiencing.

“I do know that this thing seems to be coming out of my backyard,” he said, adding that the effect of the flicker – or light hitting the blades – is “spectacular, and not in a good way.”

His family is seeing their television interrupted due to the sweep of the blades, and he likely won’t see geese return, as the turbine is in their flight path, Joy said.

Michelle Stanton, 10 Hill St., said she’s had to move her bed into the corner of her room to block the red light coming from the turbine.

“The turbine actually looks like it’s coming out of my backyard,” Stanton said. “When I sit down at night, the light is in the corner of my eye at all times.”

The city rushed the ordinance through for the financial gain of others, she said, and the benefit of one.

Dawn Vallejo, 27 Cherry St., urged councilors to come to the neighborhood on a sunny day to see the turbine’s impact.

“There is flicker to some degree,” she said, and the red light flashes from the turbine at night. “It might seem like trivial things, except to those who cannot get away from it,” she said.

The notification process to abutters is flawed, they said, questioning why the size of the structure was never revealed in public notices or why more neighbors weren’t notified by mail about the structure.

The ordinance changes the council now makes won’t undo what’s already been done, Sheila Twomey, 16 Hill St., said. She now goes to bed listening to the hum of the generator and the whooshing of the blades, and the blinking red light that can have somewhat of a strobe effect, she said.

“Believe me, it does not lull me to sleep,” she said.

Why didn’t board members reviewing the ordinance question why property owners weren’t present, Twomey said, calling the current notification system “irresponsible” and the omission of the turbine’s size from published legal notices “misleading and deceptive.”

Nan Cook, 49 Hill St., said questions about the turbine have now been answered, such as what is flicker, how far away you can see the turbine, how big it really is, and what driver distraction from the turbine is.

“You can hear it over the wind sometimes,” she said. Cook said she’s heard rumors of a map in City Hall that shows where future turbines could go in the industrial park, she said, adding that she hopes the rumor is wrong.

Scott Blackman, 161âÑ2 Hill St., questioned what the benefit of the turbine is to the city.

“It dominates my horizon 24 hours, 7 days a week, and it’s never going away,” he said. “Yes, you can hear it. It bounces off my house.”