The honeymoon period is over.
So far in the Cohasset public hearing process the Trustees of Reservations proposed wind turbine on Turkey Hill has enjoyed little opposition, or even criticism. But all that changed on Wednesday night (Dec. 8).
Residents of Hingham, specifically the Turkey Hill neighborhood, came out to voice their concerns over the project, which most of them said they had just found out about on Monday.
The project is located on the west side of Route 3A on the Hingham line. The potentially most impacted residence in Cohasset is Golden Living Center nursing home, located about 1000 feet from the turbine. Yet, in Hingham, there are a number of residents less than a half-mile from the proposed turbine site.
The Hingham residents shared concerns about the potential impacts of the turbine – noise, flicker, and visual – as well as how the Trustees were going to get the massive structure up hilly and narrow Turkey Hill Lane. An attorney representing a group of Hingham residents questioned the Trustees of Reservation right to even build a for-profit turbine.
“This is a 410-foot goliath almost literally in my backyard…it benefits Cohasset 100 percent and burdens Hingham 100 percent,” said Charles Dale of 40 Turkey Hill Lane.
This was the second public hearing on the project and the Cohasset Planning Board was not gearing up for a decision on Wednesday. The hearing was continued until next Wednesday, Dec. 15 at 9p.m. when the board could potentially close the public hearing portion of the process, if they get all their questions answered.
The Trustees of Reservations is a non-profit group dedicated to the preservation of open space and they maintain over 100 properties across Massachusetts. The group’s local properties include World’s End in Hingham, Whitney-Thayer Woods in Cohasset and Turkey Hill/Weir River Farm in Cohasset and Hingham.
The 80-meter (262-foot), 1.8-megawatt turbine by Vestas is the targeted machine (although the Trustees said they would go out to bid on the project, so that could change). The Trustees would own the turbine. Including the turbine’s blades, the turbine will extend 410-feet off the ground. The potential turbine site is surrounded by open space.
Dennis Laria, a mechanical engineer consulting on the project, reviewed some of the outstanding questions raised at the first hearing. He presented several new photo simulations of the turbine from various points in Cohasset and Hingham. He spoke to ice throw concerns and safety measures (signs, directing trail traffic away from the turbine in the winter months, shutting down the turbine in icy conditions) the Trustees would take to mitigate that issue.
Laria also presented updated information on shadow flicker – a strobing effect produced when the sun passes behind the blades of the turbine
The town’s consulting engineer John Modzelewski had his consultant develop a worst-case scenario for shadow flicker if there were no cloudy days. The result was a more acutely impacted area.
“The worst case you’ll never see, but it’s nice to know what it looks like,” Modzelewski said. There is not hard and fast standard for shadow flicker, but the generally accepted industry standard is no more than 30 minutes per day and no more than 30 hours per year.
(Also see attached coverage of issue before Hingham selectmen)
Many of the Hingham residents in the Turkey Hill area were concerned about the delivery of the massive structure to the side. Turkey Hill Lane is a “bucolic” road with rolling hills and no sidewalk, residents said. There is also a recently reconstructed bridge on Leavitt Street.
It was noted that any plans to transport materials via Leavitt Street and Turkey Hill Lane would require review by Hingham’s permitting boards. In this regard, the Cohasset Planning Board may only be able to condition the project to get all applicable permits.
“We’re looking at the project as it impacts the community and what residents may face down the road,” said Planning Board chair Al Moore. “We’re not talking tonight about permitting the delivery of the equipment to the site, of course it is a concern, but it’s a one-time delivery (as opposed to a lasting structure).”
Attorney Jeffrey Tocchio of Hingham spoke on behalf of more than 10 Turkey Hill homeowners. He raised concerns about the Trustees’ authority to even build a structure like this. A legislative charter established the Trustees of Reservation in 1891 with the purpose of preserving land and open space for all to enjoy.
“We give money to the Trustees to ensure projects like this don’t happen,” said Hingham resident Charles Dale.
Tocchio questioned the Trustees right to construct a for-profit structure on their land because of their enabling charter.
The Trustees’ attorney Richard Henderson said it was outside the planning board’s purview to address title issues; and moreover, the Trustees had the “unequivocal authority” to do the project.
The Trustees have established a private corporation, Conservation Wind LP, to lease the land, which according to the Trustees is not under a deed restriction, to construct the turbine. Tocchio questioned the Trustees’ ability to create a for-profit arm.
The Planning Board directed town counsel to investigate the claim and whether the planning board could take it into account in their decision.
The public hearing dragged on to after 11:30p.m. with several more Hingham residents airing their concerns. Hingham Selectman Laura Burns and interim town manager Ted Alexiades attended the meeting. Turkey Hill residents raised their concerns about this project to the Hingham Board of Selectmen at their Tuesday night meeting.
This is the second time a wind turbine project has been before the Cohasset Planning Board. The board denied a two-turbine proposal by a private developer located off Route 3A near Hingham Lumber earlier this year.
The hearing was continued until Wednesday, Dec. 15 at 9p.m. in Cohasset. The entire Trustees of Reservations project application can be viewed at the Planning Board office at Cohasset Town Hall on Highland Avenue.
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