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Plymouth ZBA to decide on fourth Mann turbine

PLYMOUTH – The Planning Board was split down the middle when it came to voting a recommendation regarding cranberry grower Keith Mann’s request for one more turbine on 331 acres of his land off Head of the Bay Road.

The Zoning Board of Appeals has already approved three turbines at the site, and this decision was appealed.

The Planning Board’s 2-2 vote is tantamount to the board taking no action on whether to recommend the Zoning Board of Appeals grant Mann’s request for the required special permit.

The Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled to consider the special permit request at 7:45 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 15.

Keith Mann is the owner of the property; Future Generation Wind LLC is the applicant for the project.

Six spoke in favor of the proposal during the public comment section of the meeting and six spoke against it. Five of the six in favor were from other towns or represented agencies that back the plan.

Dr. Robert McCunney cited studies that indicated wind turbines cause no adverse health reactions beyond annoyance for the few who find the noise, which is equivalent to a refrigerator’s hum, intolerable. He said wind energy associations funded these studies.

A financial consultant noted that the National Association of Realtors determined that turbines do not impact property values. A slight dip in property values does occur temporarily, however, prior to the turbine’s construction, he added, which could be due to anxieties that are later allayed.

Annette Herbst, a neighbor, said some are concerned about turbines simply because they’re not familiar with them. Wind turbines are prevalent in her native Germany, Herbst added, and are something everyone is now accustomed to. The same ought to be true for Plymouth.

“New things are always scary,” she said. “It is something you get used to for the greater good.”

Several in favor noted that, once a turbine is erected, people realize their fears about it were groundless.

But Bournehurst Drive resident Cully Gustafson said he doesn’t believe anyone in his neighborhood would have moved there if a 500-foot turbine were a feature of it. He noted that the town’s zoning bylaw restricts special permits from projects that will impact the character of neighborhoods.

“I really think it will put a black eye on Plymouth,” Gustafson said of the turbine. “There is no question that this will impact the character of our neighborhood.”

Fellow Bournehurst Drive resident Tom Booth said he’s concerned the proposed turbine will seriously impact the health and safety of his neighborhood, and cited a study that suggested a turbine was to blame for significant health issues in a Maine neighborhood.

“Please don’t let Bournehurst residents become collateral damage for this type of a project,” he said.

Planning Board member Larry Rosenblum said he can accept the scientific research that turbines don’t pose an immediate health hazard, but he wouldn’t mitigate the impact a constant annoyance can have on a resident. The problem with turbine projects is they offer nothing in the way of remuneration or compensation to homeowners affected by them, he added.

Rosenblum also noted that the applicant originally claimed that five turbines were absolutely necessary for the project to be successful and viable; then it was argued that four were essential, when the fifth turbine had to be dropped from the plans. While he said he’s happy the three turbines were approved, he said he wouldn’t support a fourth.

Planning Board Paul McAlduff noted that Parisians initially hated the Eiffel Tower when it was constructed, which has since become the highest paid tourist attraction, drawing millions. People adjust to changes they originally balk at, he added, just as he adjusted to sleeping through the roar of the tractor-trailer he drove when it was his turn for shuteye.

“Some day people will look at turbines and say, ‘What was the big deal?’” McAlduff added.

McAlduff and Planning Board Chairman Mark Garretson voted in favor of recommending the ZBA approve the proposal; Rosenblum and Planning Board member Bill Wennerberg voted against that recommendation.