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Wind turbine proposal meets resistance in Hingham  

Credit:  By Johanna Seltz, Globe Correspondent, The Boston Globe, www.boston.com 3 February 2011 ~~

Another wind turbine proposal is fluttering around the South Shore, this one for a single tower on land in Hingham, close to the border with Weymouth and sandwiched between an industrial park and a residential neighborhood.

Add it to a list of turbine possibilities in the wind-rich region, with proposals flying everywhere from Cohasset, Marion, Scituate, and Kingston to Milton, Hanover, and Wareham.

The latest plan comes from Michael Ferrara, a Quincy developer who owns eight acres on Dennis Road at the southwestern edge of Hingham. He originally planned to build four houses there. But now he says he’s interested in erecting a wind turbine on the site – on the scale of the one next to Hull High School – and selling the power to utility companies.

“It is something I’d love to do, absolutely,’’ he said.

One catch, though, is that Hingham doesn’t have any rules allowing wind turbines.

So Ferrara and his partner, Cohasset resident Matthew Shanley, wrote a wind turbine bylaw for the town. Shanley’s niece, a Hingham resident, then got the necessary signatures to put the proposed zoning rules on the warrant for the spring Town Meeting.

Shanley said he “cherry-picked’’ language from the wind turbine rules for Plymouth and Cohasset, as well as the state’s model wind turbine code, to write the proposal. “It wasn’t like I was inventing anything,’’ he said.

“I’m a big green-energy guy, and I was tickled to have the opportunity of drafting something that would go in the zoning code,’’ he added.

Predictably, some neighbors are less than tickled about the prospect of a wind turbine in their backyard. Turbine projects have generated lawsuits and fierce resistance in other parts of the state.

Less predictably, even some local renewable-energy activists are less than excited about both the proposed Hingham wind rules and the proposed turbine.

“We’ve been really involved in the Turkey Hill Project,’’ a controversial wind turbine proposed for conservation land owned by the Trustees of Reservations just over the Hingham line in Cohasset, said Robert Broker, treasurer of the Responsible Energy Alternatives Coalition of Hingham (REACH). “We thought it was more important to focus on that, because that’s more real.’’

Broker said there also are problems with the proposed zoning rules, particularly the fact that they would allow wind turbines in parts of town where cell towers are allowed. The areas include the town-owned South Shore Country Club, the transfer station, Town Forest, and Dennis Road.

“It doesn’t sound like a good way to go,’’ Broker said. “You have an empathy for the proposal, and I don’t want to take a position against it, but I’m not very positive.’’

Broker said he would rather see the town’s Planning Board or Energy Action Committee write the rules. The Planning Board will hold a hearing on the proposal next Monday.

Pat Granahan, who founded the Hingham energy coalition in 1979, said the town needed a bylaw that would allow turbines and hoped officials would work with Ferrara and Shanley.

Pam Harty, chairwoman of the Renewable Energy Committee, said her group hasn’t taken an official position on the proposal but “we would not have drafted that bylaw.’’

Like Broker, she had concerns with the places in town where turbines would be allowed, and worries that the standards for noise and light pollution were too lax, and that turbines would be allowed too close to homes.

“We would love to be able to create a product that would be an alternative, but I don’t know if we’ll be able to draft something by Town Meeting,’’ she said.

William Joyce, who lives in the only house on Dennis Road, was less politic about his feelings for both the zoning rules and the proposed turbine at the end of his street.

“I don’t like it because it’s going to crush me,’’ he said. “I’ve talked to a few people in the neighborhood and no one wants it.’’

Ferrara said he’s a little surprised by the opposition, especially since members of the coalition asked him to consider erecting a turbine on his land five years ago because it had good potential wind energy. “I had never thought about doing it [before],’’ he said.

“There were probably eight or nine people from the town of Hingham who were involved and wanted something green up there. All very nice people, just well-intentioned Hingham citizens,’’ he said.

He said his original plan was to build small homes clustered on the site with open space held in common.

“There wasn’t a lot of interest back then. Everyone was more into McMansions,’’ he said. So he got permission to build four large homes, a project that stalled when he couldn’t get the necessary water for fire hydrants from the Abington & Rockland Joint Water Works, he said.

Although the property is in Hingham, it can be reached only by going through Weymouth or Rockland, and gets water from the neighboring water company.

Ferrara said he finally got the water issue resolved, but his professional interest had shifted toward “doing different things’’ so he decided to tackle the wind turbine. And he’s still interested in the cluster concept.

“If the wind turbine doesn’t go, I’ll do the houses,’’ he said. “Or I’ll do both. I’m very open at this point.’’

“What amazes me,’’ he added, “is people want [turbines], but there seems to be a resistant fear about them.

“We’re running up against some huge resistance,’’ he said. “People freaked out.’’

Source:  By Johanna Seltz, Globe Correspondent, The Boston Globe, www.boston.com 3 February 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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