BREWSTER – A proposal to lease town land for two, 410-foot wind turbines in the industrial park off Freeman’s Way has suddenly run into a hurricane of opposition.
Prior hearings and meetings elicited slight concern from local residents and town meetings have passed several articles setting up the lease to the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative for $100,000 per turbine each year. But Wednesday night’s public hearing before the planning board drew 150 people, most of whom were strongly opposed to the plan.
The cooperative is seeking a special permit from the planning board to construct the industrial-sized wind turbines on the 106-acre property. The land is in the wind overlay district, created in 2007.
Perhaps the most serious objection came from locally owned classical music radio station WFCC (107.5 FM).
“Turbine B is 400 feet from our broadcast tower location,” said the station’s general partner Gregory Bone.
“The WFCC antennae is 320 feet above sea level,” he explained. “This could be a perfect storm for us: the close distance to the turbine, the rotating blades, we could have reverse flicker. The signal would be scattered and cause severe interference and make us unlistenable and we’d fail to meet the requirements of the FCC.”
In that case they would lose their license. If the turbines were lower or higher that wouldn’t be a problem.
The lawyer for CVEC argued these issues were not within the planning board’s authority, which is limited to zoning, historic district, setback issues etc.
“It is necessary you secure all easements and agreements with any property owners in the fall zone (within 400 feet),” board member Bob Bugle suggested earlier. “These businesses need to provide some sort of documentation that shows they understand the risks.”
“If it was a habitable dwelling we would need that,” board chairman Elizabeth Taylor replied. “So I think we are in the clear.”
That may not be the case overall, however.
“The town of Brewster is required to provide quiet enjoyment of the fall zone to lease holders; Colson’s Landscaping and one of the towers,” Selectman Greg Levasseur said.
Much of the concern centered on the effects of subsonic sounds, produced by the turbine blades, on people.
“We believe that the residents would benefit from this project,” said CVEC consultant Steve Wiehe of Weston and Sampson. “Wind turbines do make a noise of a certain character some people find annoying.”
People certainly believe they’ll find it annoying.
“Subsonic sound is a real issue,” Wendy Judd argued. “Your vesticular organs feel it. You can become unbalanced. It takes time but it will affect you.”
Headaches, dizziness, memory loss, anger, lack of sleep, are all attributed to subsonic sound, at least according to Internet information.
“There are no peer-reviewed studies that suggest sounds from wind turbines are harmful to humans,” Wiehe said. “It comes down to human characteristics. What might bother one person might not affect another.”
When Bugle asked if they’d researched subsonic sounds, Wiehe said no.
“That’s not required to be examined as part of the (zoning) bylaw,” he pointed out. “DBAs (decibels adjusted) is what’s required.”
He said the noise level of the turbines is between 40 and 50 decibels.
But residents were worried.
“Depending on the wind direction you’re getting the sound of a small plane that doesn’t go away,” one woman argued.
“I will see the turbines flashing red lights. They will be in my view every night. My children will hear the whoosh of the turbine. My 9-year-old says ‘how will I sleep at night? I’ll see those things in my window,’ ” Judd said. “I have a nice house, a nice yard, it has good value. I’d like to keep it as such. Unfortunately property values can go down 30 to 40 percent if you have a turbine near you.””
“Every penny I own is in my house, so what is going to happen to the value of my home?” worried Elaine Rojas. “That’s all I have.”
“They’re better suited for North Dakota or the Great Plains,” someone else suggested.
“My husband and I bought a house in Brewster. We didn’t buy to be near this,” Kara Kennedy Duff said. “Think how far they can chuck a chunk of ice. Think if there is a child in the way. How much money are you going to save when you’re sued, when something does happen?”
Mitch Relin pointed out England has established extensive setbacks for the turbines.
“They seem to be looking out for their citizens. They seem to care about their welfare,” he said. “So who is looking out for us?”
“Everything you dream is bad is bad,” said Falmouth resident Brian Elder, who lives 1,300 feet from a turbine.
“Our sleep is very disturbed. The turbine shuts off in high wind and comes on, a schlump, whumping sound that wakes us up,” his wife, Katherine, said.
Not everyone spoke against the turbines.
‘I see a small turbine outside my window every day and I love the way it looks,” said resident Alison Argo. “We really support alternative energy and think it’s time for us to move forward. I’m really proud of Brewster for puting this forward.”
“My concern is for my children, my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren and my great-great grandchildren,” Patricia Policastro agreed. “We have to do something now.”
The nearest abutter, Chuck Medansky, who lives 1,800 feet away, wrote a letter of support.
“I think the turbine project will increase the health of the overall environment and therefore increase human health as a result,” he wrote.
But others were very skeptical.
“I believe the greenest thing about turbines is the pockets of the people who promote them,” declared Alice Kuntz of Harwich. “I wouldn’t put one of them next to my worst enemy.”
The board raised concerns regarding the construction crane, leasers, fires, radio station, transport of the turbines and sound. The hearing was continued until Dec. 15, at 7 p.m.
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