SOUTH DENNIS – “Not in my backyard” took on a new meaning Monday night as residents from Dennis, Harwich, Brewster and Falmouth voiced their opposition to the Dennis Water District’s proposed 1.6-kilowatt wind turbine on a 330-acre parcel near the Brewster town line.
The public hearing was called to allow the water district to explain three articles on its April 26 annual meeting warrant and to hear questions and comments from the public. More than 100 came, armed with tough questions and strong opinions.
All three articles are requests for permission to file special legislation that would allow the district to do three things: construct and generate electrical power using alternative renewable energy resources and sell the excess to pay for the turbine; change the use of the water district’s land to include two wind turbines; and grant an easement on a parcel of land to the town of Dennis to construct a turbine near the one the water district proposes.
Water district Superintendent David Larkowski said the 1.6-megawatt turbine would supply all the district’s electricity, and the funds acquired through selling the excess to NStar would pay the interest on the $4 million bond the district would take out to fund the project. “We need to build a turbine a little bigger than we need to generate our energy in order to pay off our debt,” he said.
Water commissioners could not answer specific questions about the turbine they propose because plans will not be finalized until the necessary special legislation is approved. Even the proposed site, which is about 400 feet from the Brewster town line, could change should the project get the green light at the annual meeting. It would then likely be at least a year before legislators reach a decision on the requests.
But one by one, residents of Dennis and neighboring towns spoke in strong opposition to the project.
“Welcome to the fray,” said Joseph Swalec of East Brewster. “You’re just beginning the fight. I propose you show common sense and terminate this right now. In Brewster, there are people who don’t speak to each other any more. Don’t tear your community apart.”
Dennis, Brewster and Harwich residents worry that a wind turbine will reduce their property value. “What if people cannot sell their homes?” asked Rick Judd of Brewster. “What mitigations has the Dennis Water District put in place to protect them from that?”
Noreen Donahue of Harwich wondered how the district will make its bond payments if the turbines fail. Cathy Sherman expressed concern over the distance that sound travels. Others worry about the structural integrity of the turbines or about an oil spill that would impact drinking water.
Faye Hudson of South Dennis would prefer a solar project. “Have you asked people if they will pay higher water fees instead of having a wind turbine?” she asked. Frank Ciambriello of Dennis said an undetected oil leak from the turbine could “destroy anything within a 15-mile radius.”
Bob Wiser of Harwich asked if the water district is putting the burden of the project on certain taxpayers’ quality of life and home values. John Ford lives 3,500 feet from a Falmouth turbine. “The noise is a major stressor,” he said. “My blood pressure is off the charts, and my heart rate is elevated.”
Diane Harvey of Brewster lives close enough to the proposed site to worry about health problems reported by others living near large wind turbines. She demanded to know if the proposed location is close to any of the commissioners’ homes. It is not. “I think it’s very unfair to propose this project that impacts Brewster and Harwich residents who don’t get a vote,” Harvey said.
Claire Richey of Dennis said turbines are going up all over Massachusetts. “Our beautiful town of Dennis is a bright diamond on Cape Cod. I don’t want it tarnished by turbines.”
Rosemarie Austin of Dennis said turbines should be confined to the voter-approved areas: Ezra Baker and Wixon Middle schools; Dennis Pines and Highlands golf courses; and the former landfill.
Merton Ingham of South Dennis said wind power is good for the town’s ecosystem and would defray the high cost of electricity on the Cape. But even if the proposed turbine were built, it would take at least 10 years to pay for itself, and there’s no estimation of exactly how much money it would save water district customers.
Should Dennis residents reject the three articles at the water district’s April 26 annual meeting, the project would die, at least for now. “It’s possible we could bring it back at a later time,” said chairman Paul Prue.
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