Cohasset – On Wednesday night, the Planning Board made history by approving the first wind turbine in Cohasset history.
Not without controversy, the turbine will sit close to the apex of Turkey Hill and potentially impact residences in both Cohasset and Hingham.
The single wind turbine will stand 410-feet tall, including the height of the blades, and is projected to produce enough energy to power all the Trustees of Reservations’ buildings throughout Massachusetts with some to spare.
The project approval, which was unanimous, comes with a host of conditions the Planning Board feel is needed to ensure a safe project that complies with the town’s bylaws throughout the life of the structure.
The board spent about three hours on Wednesday discussing the conditions ranging from monitoring shadow flicker and sound post-construction to putting up a barrier around the turbine in the winter to ensuring there is money to remove the turbine at the end of its useful life.
Despite the Planning Board’s effort to place conditions on the project, members said it was almost assured the project would be appealed.
Golden Living Center, the closest and potentially only, Cohasset residence impacted by the wind turbine has sent a letter indicating their intent to sue, unless the Trustees agree to pay for an independent expert to evaluate the adverse health effects the wind turbine would have on the elderly residents of Golden Living, a nursing home facility.
The decision could also be appealed by the nearby Turkey Hill neighborhood in Hingham. Several Hingham residents – and their lawyer – spoke against the project and requested more time to review the issues and potential impacts on their property during the public hearing process.
“The best way to protect the town is to have, in our opinion, the most legally defensible conditions,” said Planning Board member Jean Healey Dippold.
The impact of shadow flicker, a strobing effect produced when the sun passes behind the blades of the turbine, was one of the primary concerns of the board.
To ensure the flicker amounts do not exceed the industry standards, the Planning Board conditioned the project to monitor the flicker levels at four different locations: Golden Living Center, the caretaker’s house on Turkey Hill, Pheasant Run in Hingham and along Route 228. The flicker should not exceed 30 hours per year or 30 minutes per day at any of these locations, the condition will state. The anticipated most affected locations are Golden Living Center and the caretakers’ house.
Noise levels at those four key areas will be monitored for at least a year as well with quarterly reports to the board. If the standards are exceeded then the applicant would need to take steps to mitigate the issue, or the turbine will be shut down.
“We want to make sure once the turbine is up and running it is in line with what was predicted,” said John Modzelewski, the Planning Board’s consulting engineer.
The Planning Board’s conditions also called for a barrier to be erected during the winter months to protect walkers from snow and ice dropping from the blades and the applicant to pay for emergency response training.
The conditions also include a stipulation for the applicant to make “a reasonable effort” to sell excess power to the town. An agreement would need to be negotiated between the applicant and the town. The project will also be subject to real estate taxes.
This project is significant as it is the first to be approved under the town’s wind energy conversion facility bylaw, which has been in place since its unanimous approval at town meeting in 2008. Another application was put forth by a private developer for two turbines on Cohasset Heights off Route 3A, but it was ultimately denied by the Planning Board.
Town Counsel will now work to draw up the approval with conditions document over the next few weeks. After the decision is filed with the Town Clerk aggrieved parties have 20 days to appeal the decision.
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