DENNIS – It may go down in the record books as one of the longest public hearings in the Dennis Old King’s Highway Historic District Committee’s history.
After more than four hours of presentation, public input and committee discussion at the Aug. 11 public hearing, chairman Peter Lomenzo called for a site visit and balloon test before ruling on Aquacultural Research Corporation’s request for a certificate of appropriateness for a 243-foot wind turbine on its property adjacent to Chapin Beach in Dennis.
ARC owners Dick Kraus, Gail Hart and Susan Machie, assisted by attorney John Kenney of Centerville and renewable energy consultant Tom Michelman, presented their proposal to construct a 660 kW Elecon turbine similar to the turbine that powers Mass. Maritime Academy. The turbine would stand 165 feet to the hub, with the three blades adding another 78 feet.
The turbine would replace all fossil fuel sources now powering the Cape’s only hardshell clam and oyster seed hatchery. Kraus said the turbine is essential to the survival of his business, which consumes approximately $150,000 worth of energy each year.
State officials and Cape residents from Falmouth to Wellfleet traveled to Dennis, most speaking in favor of the project.
Massachusetts Aquaculture Association President Steven Wright of Chatham said, “ARC has developed a brood stock of shellfish suited to our waters. Without ARC, we’d have to bring in shellfish seed from other places that are not genetically suited for growth and resistance to disease in the local habitat.”
Gerry Palano, renewable energy coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, asked the committee to consider “the intrinsic link of ARC to the local fishing industry, not only on ARC land but on the many shores of Barnstable County.” Palano said the installation of a turbine would eliminate the burning of fossil fuels on the site.
“We at Mass. Agricultural Resources assess these projects on their ability to preserve historical character and local farming,” Palano said. “Approving this wind turbine would preserve [ARC’s] operation and further their preservation of open land in this sensitive area of Dennis.”
Mass. Shellfish Association President Gary Sherman said changes in the fishing regulations have pushed many fishermen to seek a reliable seed source to start an aquaculture business. “ARC is that source,” he said. “History changes. This is a good thing. The future is now.”
On Aug. 3, Dennis selectmen unanimously supported the project.
Wellfleet resident Barbara Austin, who has been buying ARC seed since 1987, said shellfish is essential for clean water. “Oysters and clams filter out the nitrates,” she said. “I support green power, green industry and clean water.”
Marine biologist Richard York of Falmouth said some towns buy and plant ARC seed oysters to clean up their bays. “We can’t continue that program with another hatchery,” he said. “Without ARC, there would be a lot of hardship.”
Speaking as a private citizen but “motivated by his role as a water commissioner,” Dennis resident Peter McDowell said the committee can “responsibly issue a certificate of appropriateness for this project.” Spyro Mitrokostas, executive director of the Dennis Chamber of Commerce, said his members support the project. “That business is irreplaceable,” he said. “The digital representation of the wind turbine at ARC is a picture postcard. It does not undermine the integrity of the historic district.”
Paula Bacon of West Dennis, who serves on the economic development committee, called ARC’s owners “heroes … critical to our economy.” Bacon said Dennis’ heritage lies in people taking something that was there and doing something with it. “This is a moment in history. Sometimes change is necessary and we need to embrace it.”
Dennis native Brad Crowell also supports the project. “This project and this company are a link back to a continuum of history,” Crowell said. “To lose that would be a step back for this town and this community.”
Yarmouth Port resident Jim Liedell would see the turbine from his Kings Way home. “Wind eliminates human and environmental impacts of burning fossil fuel,” Liedellsaid. “There are so many health benefits we would all receive from ARC’s project. It is visually graceful and beautiful, a modern windmill Cape Cod simple.”
Dennis resident Denise Atwood, chairwoman of the alternative energy commission, said this is a perfect time to look at the big picture. “Think globally, act locally,” Atwood said. “We need this wind turbine.”
Those opposing the project live in Yarmouth Port and in Dennis near Chapin beach. David Wyatt of Dr. Bottero Road submitted a letter of protest with 90 signatures. Rose Austin of Spadoni Way asked if there’s a backup plan for residents annoyed by noise or shadow flicker from the turbine. Neighbor Don Dornback added, “We don’t live on Cape Cod for a turbine to drown out the sound of wind and waves.” Mark Kazazian said ARC should provide 10 years of financial statements to prove they can’t survive without the turbine’s energy.
Committee needs time
During the committee’s discussion, members Bill Bohlin and Joshua Crowell said they were prepared to approve ARC’s request. But other members said they need more time before making a landmark decision to allow the first wind turbine on the shores of Cape Cod Bay.
Member Frank Ciambriello said he prefers historically correct or simulated materials such as wood or bricks and doesn’t like feeling threatened or guilty if the committee denies the application. “I don’t want to see these things. If one comes in, how many more will we have?”
Member Don Waldo asked what happens if a storm damages the turbine. Gary Barber would require a bond ensuring the turbine could be removed.
Lomenzo said it would be in the committee’s interest “to find a way to help you.” He agreed that ARC is an important part of the heritage of Cape Cod. “The [Old King’s Highway Act] gives us leverage to decide in favor of alternative energy projects.” Still, Lomenzo objects to the turbine’s size and visibility. “We’re not there yet,” he said.