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Brewster passes on wind turbines

BREWSTER – The town’s wind turbine project is likely headed to court or a state appeals board after the planning board failed to attain enough votes to deny or approve a special permit Wednesday night.

After sitting through a grueling public hearing last week, at which more than 100 people testified, and sifting through 1,500 pages of documents submitted both pro and con on building two large municipal wind turbines off Freemans Way, the planning board Wednesday night wrestled with whether the project conformed to conditions laid out in the municipal turbine bylaw.

Early on, it became apparent that three board members had heard enough and weren’t interested in discussing special conditions that could have been imposed on the project to mitigate some or all of their concerns.

“I don’t think Brewster is the place for 410-foot-tall, gigantic wind turbines,” John McMullen said. “I don’t think there is any way to mitigate these turbines.”

As board Chairwoman Elizabeth Taylor polled members on various issues, a majority of the board thought the turbines adversely affected both the scenic and property values in the area.

Richard Kuzman believed the turbines would violate the town’s turbine bylaw by visually changing the character of the area, and that noise and flickering shadows from the spinning blades constituted a potential health hazard.

He thought the board strove to protect the character and environmental quality of the town and that this project affected both of those goals.

“We get really upset if we see a 4-foot sign,” Kuzman said. “This all seems to be contradictory.”

Scott Collum said that putting “a monster white turbine up in the air” didn’t fit with the rural character of Brewster.

But board member John Leaning pointed out that voters at town meeting had on at least two occasions overwhelmingly approved the industrial park as the place to locate large turbines.

Unlike other locations where turbines have been proposed, the Brewster industrial park is relatively remote with few residential properties close by.

The nearest home is 1,800 feet away, and most are around 3,000 feet from either of the two turbine locations.

The planning board was also concerned about claims brought by radio station WFCC that the operation of the turbines could possibly interfere with their signal.

Town Administrator Charles Sumner told members that the town had contacted the owners of the communication tower located on town property on which the station leased space, but station owner Gregory Bone had not submitted technical data demonstrating potential harm.

A couple of hours into Wednesday night’s hearing, with Taylor still running through a checklist of findings that would help explain the upcoming decision, Collum abruptly made a motion to deny the permit, which failed to attain the supermajority of five of seven board members. Three voted in favor of a motion to deny the permit, three against the motion, and one member abstained.

Town Planner Susan Leven said the vote ended the board’s involvement in the project. She said the decision, or lack of one, would now have to be appealed either in court or to the state’s facilities siting board, although exactly which was still unclear to both proponents and board members Wednesday night.