COHASSET – Plans for a controversial wind turbine on Turkey Hill have been put on hold while project organizers review a lawsuit likely to test Cohasset’s three-year-old regulations on wind turbine construction.
The suit, filed in Boston Land Court by neighbors and a skilled-nursing home near the site for the project, alleges that the Cohasset Planning Board failed to acknowledge neighbors’ concerns and violated the town’s new bylaws when it granted special permits requested by the Trustees of Reservations, a statewide conservation group that oversees much of Turkey Hill and would operate the turbine. Both the board and the Trustees of Reservations are named as defendants in the suit.
Stephen Sloan, the trustees’ regional director for Greater Boston, said the organization has put the project on hold as it considers the appeal.
“We are still viewing the merits of the appeal. We’re confident in our application and committed to the project and to demonstrating the importance of generating green, renewable energy,” he said. “We feel strongly this is the right thing to do, and it can be done in an appropriate way.”
According to the lawsuit, the 410-foot-tall Turkey Hill turbine would be erected in the northwest corner of Cohasset, in the 314-acre Whitney Thayer Woods, and would be within 1,000 feet of the Golden Living skilled-nursing home and homes on the Hingham side of the border. The Trustees of Reservations organization plans to use the energy to power some of its own facilities and sell the rest to recoup the $5 million to $6 million project cost.
The turbine was the first project approved under Cohasset’s wind energy conversion facility bylaw, which was approved by town meeting in 2008. An earlier proposal for two turbines in Cohasset Heights off Route 3A was rejected by the planning board.
While the lawsuit addresses a host of concerns – including the destruction of woodland in clearing the site, the risk of collapse, and noise related to construction – it focuses on the “flickering shadows” that the 150-foot blades would cast on nearby houses and the nursing home, which is home to about 200 elderly residents.
“This has been known to cause sleep problems, frequent headaches, dizziness, unsteadiness, depression and anxiety,” Susan Haralson, a spokeswoman for Arkansas-based Golden Living, said in an email. “Given that these effects often occur among young, healthy people, we are particularly concerned about the effects on the patients at our Golden Living Center-Cohasset, many of whom are advanced in age and have various health-care needs.”
Sloan, however, noted that the trustees have already agreed to shut down the turbine during the hours of the day when it would be most likely to cast flickering shadows on homes.
A condition of the special permit granted to the trustees requires that the organization monitor flickering at the site and make sure that it does not exceed 30 minutes per day or 100 hours per year.
The suit, however, asserts that the planning board is not permitted to mitigate “significant” flickering by imposing conditions and must prevent it from happening altogether. Haralson said “any amount of flicker is significant and is cause for concern.”
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