FALMOUTH – Some residents of a small Connecticut town are pointing to the erection of Falmouth’s town-owned wind turbine as a cautionary tale.
Three dozen residents of Prospect, Conn. – a town of 9,200 just south of Waterbury – traveled three hours to Falmouth on Saturday to get a firsthand glimpse of Wind I, Falmouth’s 400-foot, 1.65-megawatt turbine at the wastewater treatment facility.
The reason, said Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield, is that a private company is trying to build two similar-size turbines as close as 1,500 feet to nearby homes. Some Falmouth residents have complained about excessive noise and quality-of-life issues because of the turbine here, and Chatfield wants to avoid a similar fate.
“We’re worried about noise and property values,” Chatfield said in a phone interview Monday.
The proposal is the first of its kind in Connecticut, Chatfield said. He is in favor of green energy initiatives, but Chatfield said his state has no regulations concerning minimum setbacks and noise levels that would govern a turbine in a residential neighborhood.
That’s why he commissioned a bus trip for concerned residents to look at and listen to Falmouth’s turbine, as well as tour some of the homes of the people who claim they have been negatively affected by the noise.
Chatfield said the “whooshing” noise was louder than he expected from a neighbor’s house approximately 2,000 feet from Wind I, which is disheartening because many of the homes will be even closer to the proposed Prospect turbine.
Similar to Falmouth residents who claim the turbine was fast-tracked through the approval process, Chatfield said he is open to clean energy as long as all aspects of the project are properly vetted.
“I know it’s the way of the future, but it needs to be with rules and regulations,” Chatfield said. “Sometimes it takes people a month to get a swimming pool permit. That’s just a little individual spending $10,000 on a swimming pool, but this company is trying to get a turbine approved in 60 days.”
Back in Falmouth, issues with the turbine – as well as a second identical turbine currently being constructed on the same site – will come to a head at Thursday’s zoning board of appeals hearing.
Alexander Watt, an attorney representing Neil and Elizabeth Andersen of Blacksmith Shop Road, has filed a cease-and-desist motion with the board claiming the turbine should be shut down because it never received a special permit required under the town’s bylaws.
“Our point is the special permit process should have been conducted at the outset so some of these issues could have been vetted,” Watt said.
But Falmouth Building Commissioner Eladio Gore disagreed and said the town did not have to grant a special permit because the turbine is akin to building a wastewater treatment plant or a water tower.
Gore also said even if the ZBA reverses his decision only he has the power to put a cease-and-desist order into effect.
But Watt said the zoning board could take that step if it votes to disagree with Gore’s initial decision.
The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Falmouth Town Hall.
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