BRIMFIELD – Through their comments, cheers, hand-held signs and jeers the vast majority of the more than 200 residents packed into Wednesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting made clear their strong opposition to a wind farm proposed for the top of West Mountain.
Although the project had a few supporters, the far more numerous opponents mentioned noise, a permanent change in the landscape, blasting that could affect water wells, the end of hiking near Steerage Rock and the unknown as reasons to block the proposal by the Boston based First Wind, which has proposed installing 10 turbines on the West Mountain ridge to generate electricity.
“They expect us to sit and take it,” said Dr. Elizabeth Smola. “But they won’t get that from the residents of Brimfield.”
The selectmen had originally planned to take a vote at the start of their 6:30 p.m. meeting on whether to accept a $30,000 payment from First Wind that could be used by the town to hire experts to help investigate the economic, environmental, engineering and other aspects of the project.
But Selectmen Thomas C. Marino and Stephen R. Fleshman agreed to go along with Selectman Diane M. Panaccione’s recommendation that they first listen to the comments from residents, which had previously been scheduled to come after the vote on whether to enter a memorandum of agreement with First Wind that would have provided the funds to help with due diligence.
During the initial discussion on this, Panaccione said she intended to vote against accepting the company’s money, while Marino and Fleshman said that without having made up their minds on whether to support or oppose the project itself, they were inclined to accept the $30,000 as a way of getting good information on all aspects of it.
“I feel it is important for every citizen to have as much information as possible,” Marino said.
Discussing a trip he made last week to examine a First Wind turbine installation in Mars Hill, Maine, Marino said, he had a change of heart.
“The sound of windmills was much more than I expected when the wind was blowing very hard.”
Board of Health Chairman Richard Costa, who also was on that visit to Mars Hill, said he and the other Brimfield officials met with supporters and opponents of the First Wind project in Maine and could hear the noise of the turbines while at a house 2,500 feet from that wind farm.
“I would not want to live in that home,” Costa said, drawing applause from the crowd. “Between the sound and the alterations at West Mountain, I don’t think this project would be a good fit for Brimfield.”
Police Chief Charles T. Kuss said he admired the technology he viewed at Mars Hill and saw no safety problems. He also said, “I don’t think anyone would argue the benefits of green energy.”
But Kuss also said, “Some people would be bothered by the sound, a very subtle and low sound. I didn’t like it.”
Marino has said First Wind has offered the town a $145,000 annual payment for 20 years if the wind farm is installed and said that instead of the original terms for this to come as a payment in lieu of taxes, other financial mechanisms have been proposed.
Representatives of the company and the town have said the project could not be built without a zoning bylaw change that would take a two-thirds vote at Town Meeting to be approved.
But Eleanor Tillinghast, who spoke to opponents Tuesday at a meeting convened by No Brimfield Wind, said legislation pending in Massachusetts might eliminate the option of such a local veto.
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