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Wind turbine puts Cohasset and Hingham at odds

A dispute over a 400-foot-tall wind turbine to be built in Cohasset on Turkey Hill near the Hingham town line is starting to strain relations between the two towns.

At a Board of Selectmen meeting Tuesday afternoon, Hingham residents came out in droves to protest the impending turbine, a project they say is happening too quickly for them to be able to raise substantial concerns.

“The 41st day since the filing occurred was [last] Wednesday evening. This [Wednesday] will be the 48th day, ” said attorney Jeffery Tocchio, who is representing five families who live off Turkey Hill Lane. “Have we had an opportunity to review the materials? No. Have we had chance to hire some type of sound expert? No we haven’t,”

But according to Hingham Selectwoman Laura Burns, the chair of Cohasset’s Planning Board is planning to close the comment period by Wednesday night if it has all the technical data in place, essentially cutting off further comment or discussion.

But many HIngham residents argue that a number of issues, including the view of the turbine, the noise it produces, the safety hazard it may cause, and the potential damage Hingham might incur from construction of the project, have not been addressed.

“The neighbors will not be entitled to submit any information, any comment on these sound materials [after the comment period is closed on Wednesday], and that’s not fair,” Tocchio said.

The Trustees of Reservation, a nonprofit conservation group based in Sharon that is building the turbine on the land, attempted to quell many of these concerns at Tuesday’s meeting, showing renderings of what what the turbine would look like from varying angles of Hingham, and providing an analysis of ambient noise that would theoretically drown out the turbine’s sound.

According to Dennis Loria, a mechanical engineer with the trustees, these issues have been addressed with the proper state and federal authorities, and the project is well on its way.

“From an approval standpoint, we’re in the process of meeting all the state and federal permitting requirements,” he said. That includes a Federal Aviation Administration determination that the turbine presents no hazard.

“We received approval from tbe Conservation Commission … and we don’t expect there to be any road modifications required. We also got National Grid approval,” he said.

Many other proponents of the project stressed that the noise issue and possible shadow flickering that may occur were really nothing to be concerned about, as they were barely noticeable and were easily gotten used to.

Hingham residents were not convinced.

“I have several objections to this project. I’m not against wind energy – I think it’s great,” said Cynthia Hidell, who lives at 63 Gilford Rd. in Hingham. “But I don’t think this is the right location. This is conservation land. I think this is going to be an enormous construction project there that will affect those of us who walk in the woods daily … in ways more than just the base footprint.”

But Hingham has little control over whether or not the project is approved. According to Burns, the Cohasset Planning Board will determine the validity of the project; all Hingham residents can do is ask for an elongation of the comment period and address concerns that take place within their town.

As a result, the selectmen will send two letters to the Cohasset Planning Board, asking it not to close the comment period and to bring the Hingham engineer into the discussion regarding the use of Hingham roads, which may be damaged or altered to allow heavy machinery trucks to pass through.

The selectmen also said that they would be asking that the turbine permit contain language that would require mitigation for public safety concerns, such as ice and snow throw or if the turbine fell down.

Although the Cohasset Planning Board was not willing to discuss engineering concerns at a previous meeting, the chairman of Hingham selectmen, Bruce Rabuffo, said addressing these things now is an important first step in the project.

Rabuffo said Hingham officials want to ensure that “the rights of our citizens are protected, and that we’re not torpedoed into something that is not compatible with our town and that is not protected…

”People bought their homes with the idea that certain things would be in place, and we should protect that right.”

Rabuffo said he hoped that the comment period would remain open while residents still had concerns, “otherwise, it will affect future relationships between Hingham and Cohasset.”