MARION – After listening to an explanation of how the proposed Great Hill Wind Turbine proposal would proceed, residents, mostly comprised of Piney Point property owners, reiterated their discontent with the idea of a large commercial wind turbine overshadowing their homes and possible negative sides effects on their health and quality of life and property values.
But even before residents had a chance to voice their opinions and comments, Marion Alternative Energy Committee Chairman David Pierce tried to quell anxious homeowners.
“I think there is an impression afoot this thing is going up tomorrow,” Pierce said. “Nothing is going to happen without Town Meeting action.”
Pierce said the committee is weighing pros and cons of allowing a 50-meter tall town-owned wind turbine on the Stone estate at Great Hill. He said the committee has been in discussions with Stone family trustees about the possibility of locating a commercial wind-harnessing turbine there. Several members of the Stone family were at the meeting.
“As far as we know, the Stone family has not made a decision (whether to allow it), so there’s a great deal yet to be determined, including an acoustic study, and other studies,” Pierce said.
Marion Alternative Energy Committee member Norm Hills said that many of the studies could be paid for with grant money. Hills then asked for a show of hands from the approximately 60 people in the room who study beneath a wind turbine. Eight hands went up. He then asked for a show of hands of those that had read a feasibility study on the project. Except for committee members, no hands went up.
Then Kitt Sawitsky, a recent appointee to the committee and a Piney Point resident, asked for a show of hands from people who had been to Falmouth to stand beneath that town’s wind turbine. No hands from the committee went up.
“I think that tells a part of our concern,” Sawitsky, a Boston attorney who purchased his Piney Point home last November.
Sawitsky kept his comments short, but he was somewhat agitated by the committee’s “seemingly unwillingness” to explore residents’ concerns. Sawitsky asked why he has gotten no response from Marion Town Administrator Paul Dawson, selectmen or the Alternative Energy Committee on a study he paid for. Dawson was not in attendance. Only Selectman Jonathan Henry was at the meeting, and he said he was there only as a private citizen.
“There’s an attitude about this that doesn’t sound open,” Sawitsky said. “You are not dealing with fear mongers. You are dealing with people who are now afraid.”
Pierce took exception to Sawitsky’s contention that the committee didn’t care or was not interested in exploring the effects a wind turbine would have on residents.
“Not one of the people in this room, with a few exceptions, have attended (Marion Alternative Energy Committee) meetings,” Pierce said, taking a firm tone. “If you think we’re blowing you off, we’re not. I take exception to the statement that we’re not listening to you.”
Some residents complained that they weren’t aware of the Great Hill turbine proposal or the Jan. 24 meeting. Jeanne Holmes, a summer resident in Piney Point, said she only knew about the proposal and meeting from a flier a neighbor left in her mail box.
“Its so beautiful and peaceful here,” Holmes said. “Let’s be careful with our beautiful town, and protect it.”
Pierce reiterated that the committee is taking the process through its paces.
“We need to have our ducks in the row. We need to have our studies in hand before we move forward,” Piece said.
Pierce said the issue would not be on the annual spring warrant this year.
After some venting, questions turned more specific. Piney Point resident Allan Ditchfield asked what the town would do with the power. Hills responded that it would be used to defray much of Marion’s utility costs.
Delano Road resident Sue Maxwell Lewis asked how all the equipment for a turbine of that size would be delivered. Henry said it would be shipped by barge. Piney Point resident Gil McManus noted that most people moved to the area because its beautiful and secluded area. He said a wind turbine does not fit the landscape.
“There’s something wrong about trying to fit a round peg in a square hole,” McManus said.
Another resident claimed there would be a 25 to 30 percent reduction in property values “just because it’s being talked about.” He vowed to “vigorously” pursue an assessment reduction because of the “property value degradation.”
Piney Point resident Kathy Reed, a 29-year resident, and a former chemistry and biology teacher, now in the health care field, expressed concern about rotor noise and the swoop and swish sounds nearby abutters would be forced to endure. She said noise is more than an annoyance.
“An annoyance over time becomes a health issue,” Reed said.
Piney Point resident Rico Ferrari was even more blunt. He asked what the process is to replace committee members “if the community loses faith in them.”
Pierce responded that selectmen appoint committee members. Selectman Chairman Roger Blanchette is also a member of the committee.
At least another half dozen residents asked questions, ranging from the effect a wind turbine would have on property taxes to what effect a hurricane would have on the structure.
Piney Point resident Steve Kokkins complimented the Stone family for their “wonderful stewardship” of their family estate for 100 years, and for allowing people to walk the grounds. The town has the Stone estate under conservation restriction.
Kokkins, an engineer and pilot, urged people to be patient to see what all the studies have to say. However, he also quoted an adage his father liked to say to him in Kokkins’ earlier years: “Son, don’t be so open minded that your brains fall out.”
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