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Ethics Commission continues investigation of Councilman Winfield

SCITUATE – The Rhode Island Ethics Commission investigation into Republican Town Council member John F. Winfield Jr.’s alleged failure to recuse himself from council deliberations about a wind turbine proposed in an orchard that abuts his property is ongoing, a spokesman for the agency said Tuesday, Oct. 5.

The complaint was brought by Gloria McConville of 240 Gleaner Chapel Road, owner of Sunset Orchard, who with Wind Energy Development LLC of North Kingstown have applied for a zoning dimensional variance and a special permit to erect a 426-foot-tall wind turbine that would generate income to pay taxes and expenses for the farm.

Winfield and other abutters object to the plan, citing health and safety concerns and a disturbance of the quiet enjoyment of their property.

McConville alleged in a complaint filed July 26:

* On April 22, Linda Winfield, the councilman’s wife, voiced her opposition to a wind turbine process to the council and Councilman Winfield did not recuse himself.

* On April 29 after publicly expressing his opposition to the McConville proposal and after his wife, Linda, opposed the matter Winfield voted in favor of a moratorium on wind turbines until an ordinance is drafted.

* Councilman Winfield sits on the Wind Turbine Study Commission, which is drafting a wind turbine ordinance for the town, and did not recuse himself when he appeared before the commission on June 2, June 16 and July 21.

The Valley Breeze & Observer called Winfield at his business Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 5, for a comment but the answering service said he was not available.

The objections were to a structure as tall as a skyscraper (it would be close to the height of the Bank of America Building in Providence); to concerns about the shadow flicker cast by the turbine blades which some believe could trigger seizures for some people.

Supporters see the turbine as a necessary step toward generating green energy (the electricity would power the farm with the remaining amount sold to National Grid) and an environmentally conscious way to keep a farm in operation.

The probes could take up to 180 days under Ethics Commission regulations.