Falmouth has been praised locally and at the state and national levels for erecting Massachusetts’ first municipally-owned wind turbine at its Wastewater Treatment Facility of Blacksmith Shop Road.
But it also has faced a backlash of anger from residents living near the turbine who have complained about the machine’s negative impact on their lives, from affecting their health to reducing their property values.
The delicate balance between the pros and cons of building a wind turbine was on display for a group of roughly 40 residents and town officials of Prospect, Connecticut, who visited the turbine site this past Saturday.
The contingent took the nearly 3 1/2-hour bus trip from their hometown, which has a population of roughly 9,000 people, to the Cape as part of a fact-finding mission to better understand the impacts of the machines as a private company, BNE Energy of West Hartford, attempts to erect two 1.6-megawatt turbines in that town. At roughly 490 feet, the turbines will be 90 feet taller than the one at the town’s Wastewater Treatment Facility.
Of concern to the Connecticut town’s residents are the siting of the machines, which resident Timothy Reilly said would be as close as 700 to 800 feet to some homes. The Prospect turbine would be 950 feet from the state road.
Mr. Reilly visited Falmouth earlier this month, on Veterans Day, with his father because of concerns he has as an abutter about BNE Energy’s proposal. “This isn’t going to be cost effective, so if we are going to do it we need reasonable setbacks,” he said. “Our group is saying one mile. We don’t get the energy benefit. This would be a commercial enterprise, which would be paid for the energy that goes back into the grid for their profit. Our town would get about $150,000 in taxes.”
On Saturday Mr. Reilly and others in the anti-turbine camp in Prospect showed their distaste for BNE Energy’s project by wearing T-shirts that read “S.O.S.” undeerneath which read “Save Our Streets!””
The trip did nothing but reaffirm the neighborhood’s opposition to the turbines, Mr. Reilly said. “It was really preaching to the converted for all of my group,” he said.
The important piece was the inclusion of several Prospect public officials who also made the trek that was funded by the town.
Those who visited Cape Cod on Saturday included members of the town council, a land use inspector, and Prospect Mayor Robert J. Chatfield.
In a phone interview yesterday Mr. Chatfield said he is trying to be objective about the proposed turbine project in is town, but “I’m spending more time on this between e-mails and phone calls… I’m trying to help the neighbors, but I want to get all the info I can without being disrespectful to the neighbors who get so emotional and worked up over this.”
The main purpose of Saturday’s trip, he said, was to gather information firsthand about Falmouth’s wind turbine and how that could impact Prospect’s residents.
One major concern he has in Connecticut is that all local control has been taken away for cities and towns related to energy and communications project. The Connecticut Siting Council, he said, hold the permitting authority over these industries.
“This is the first of its kind commercial wind turbine in Connecticut. The siting council has never had one of these before,” he said. “They have no rules or regulations on setbacks in Connecticut so this has been very controversial in our town.”
Residents there are concerned about safety, noise, and a decrease in property values, he said.
That is why his office is asking for a delay to the project, which could geet approval in as soon as 70 days. “We want to have some hearings so everyone on both sides has answers to their questions,” he said. “We are asking them to slow down. This, again, is all new to us.”
In addition to visiting the Wastewater Treatment Facility, the Prospect group also visited a home nearby to see the impacts there.
Mr Chatfield said he was struck by several things during the two-hour visit to Falmouth. This included the immense size of the turbine, the “swoosh, swoosh” noise it made, and the flicker effect it caused.
He also highlighted the large crowd of Falmouth and Cape residents, roughly 50, who greeted them upon their visit to the Wastewater Treatment Facility. “One gentleman said his wife is living in their cellar so she doesn’t have to hear the noise,” he said.
Some residents made signs warning Prospect town officials and residents about the problems the Falmouth turbine has cause them. J. Malcolm Donals of Ambleside Drive, Falmouth, was one of those in attendance on Saturday morning.
As to why he showed up, he said, “We thought it was a good thing to do. They needed to hear voices from our residents who have been affected by the wind turbine.”
Based upon Falmouth’s study of the noise generated by the wind turbine, conducted by consultant Harris, Miller, Miller & Hanson of Burlington, Mr. Donald said his home will be one of the two identified in the report where the town would be in violation of the state’s permissible noise levels.
Mr. Donald said he has several concerns related to that report, including the time of year it was done, in the sumer when winds are calmer and leaves are on the trees.
He sent Acting Town Manager Heather B. Harper a letter last week identifying his fears with the second wind turbine to be built at the Wastewater Treatment Facility.
His goal, he said, is to hold a public hearing so that the second turbine will be put on hold.
While he has concerns about the siting of turbines, he said, “I think wind turbines and neighborhoods can coexist, but we need adequate setbacks… I don’t know how many homes in Falmouth are affected, maybe 30 or 40. These people are losing their tranquility, not sleeping at night and their property values are going down. They can’t be expected to sacrifice their property rights for the good ov everybody.”
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