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Tilting at windmills  

Credit:  By Gillian Swart, GateHouse News Service, www.wickedlocal.com 27 February 2010 ~~

Newburyport has its own laser light show, or an equivalent thereof, from an unlikely source: the new industrial-sized wind turbine that recently was turned on in the industrial park.

At night, from the middle of the northbound lane of Route 1, the twirling blades catch the red beacon light atop the massive structure, and the light shoots out along the blades.

It’s pretty spectacular, but not if the light is shooting right into the window of your home.

Residents of the Back Bay neighborhood, located across Route 1 from the industrial park, were at the City Council meeting this week to urge board members to review the cityss ordinance governing wind turbines. Many described how the flashing night light, daytime flicker of shadows and the continual noise from the turbine is affecting their daily lives.

Visual pollution

Those residents and Ward 2 City Councilor Greg Earls convinced the council to take a second look at the city’s rules on wind turbines. In a letter to his fellow council members, Earls asked that the review look at dimensional controls, public notifications, site suitability studies and density.

It’s not clear if any relief is available to Back Bay residents who are now coping with the dominating presence of the turbine and its effects on the neighborhood.

[The noise] should go well with my new strobe-light flicker, said Jason Lacroix of 14 Hill St.

Michelle Stanton, 10 Hill St., said she had to move her bed from the place that was designed to fit it, and that the light is always in the corner of her eyes.

Several residents have reported problems with their dogs, including Nan Cook, who said her Hill Street home is in the high flicker zone.

Dubbing it “visual pollution,” Cook said when the turbine first started to turn, she had to drag her dog through the flicker at the Old Hill Cemetery.

The effect is reminiscent of driving along the road and having the sun flicker in your peripheral vision as you drive past a stand of trees. Except you’re not going anywhere, Cook said.

Dawn Vallejo, who lives at 27 Cherry St., can see only the top of the turbine, and she expects not to be able to see it at all when the trees leaf out in the spring.

That was what all of the Back Bay neighborhood expected – not to be able to see it and to have minimal flicker affecting their lives. The turbine is fully visible from Plum Island.

Somewhere along the line, something went terribly wrong. From one end of the neighborhood, where it can only barely be seen through bare branches, to the other end, where because of a 75-foot ridge, the hub, or nacelle, of the turbine is only 138 feet above the ground, the huge turbine is causing consternation.

At 26 Hill St., the visual gap between the house and the one next door is completely filled by turning blades. At night, it is an eerie effect.

The feeling in the neighborhood is that it’s just this blind idea that we need to rush into anything that’s green, said Vallejo. Dare you say anything against this wind turbine and not be called NIMBYs and idiots?

For the uninitiated, NIMBY stands for not in my back yard.

Landfill neighbor Ron Klodenski also spoke to the council, jokingly noting there was no turbine in his neighborhood, “although I am expecting one any day. I am an expert on outside projects being brought into the neighborhood.”

All of the residents said they have no quarrel with wind energy, as such, but believed that much more study should have been done and much more neighborhood input should have been gathered before the Zoning Board of Appeals last year granted business owner Mark Richey a variance. He received the go-ahead to erect the 292-foot, 600-kilowatt turbine behind his woodworking business.

The neighborhood has started a Web site, www.backbaywind.org, to keep neighbors, city officials and others up to date on the technology and latest news on wind turbines.

“We are already affiliate members of the National Wind Watch organization and windac tion.org, which document the wind turbine industry, and whether the benefits of wind power outweigh the risks, said Cook. At first glance, it seems like a sky-is-falling Web site, but take a look with an open mind – if all these people across the country are dealing with the same thing, there has to be something to it.”

Vallejo, who also spoke out at the City Council meeting this week, attends neighborhood meetings – not because she has a red light flashing into her home, but because it’s her neighborhood. And also because she never thought that something as tall as the Statue of Liberty would be built so near a city neighborhood.

Try living here and never being able to escape it, she said.

Source:  By Gillian Swart, GateHouse News Service, www.wickedlocal.com 27 February 2010

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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