SOUTH DENNIS – It can be a struggle to get the 25 person quorum at an annual meeting of the Dennis Water District.
Not so Tuesday night when almost 200 of the district’s residents turned out at the Dennis Senior Center to vote on the first steps of a controversial proposal to build wind turbines on the district’s land.
Residents rejected two warrant articles that sought permission to ask the state Legislature to move forward with the project but only after contentious votes split almost evenly between supporters and opponents of the plan.
“This is like the camel putting his nose in the tent,” said Howard Bonington of South Dennis. “We’re asking permission from the state Legislature to do certain things before we really know if we want to do these things.”
Bonington and other residents cited a series of unanswered questions, including whether noise problems like those reported by neighbors of a controversial turbine in Falmouth had been appropriately studied and whether the turbines would affect property values.
“Why does (the turbine) have to be 400 feet?” said John Leogrande of East Dennis. “Can’t it be 250 feet?”
Supporters of at least considering the project argued that approving the request to the state Legislature was only the first in a long list of actions that must be taken before any turbines are built.
“You guys show up at the meetings and make sure they do the right thing each time, but do not slam the door,” Burt Derick of South Dennis said to opponents.
If these first steps had been approved the project would still need support from town meeting and would need to meet minimum performance standards recently enacted by Barnstable County officials.
Some residents called on their neighbors to consider where their energy comes from currently and how turbines on water district land could reduce their water rates and taxes.
Residents use energy from places like the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth and from fossil fuels that are potentially more detrimental to human health than turbines, said Fritz Lowenstein of Dennis.
“We don’t live in a vacuum,” he said. “When you turn on a power switch it echoes throughout the country.”
After some confusion over the vote count district residents initially approved an article to ask the Legislature’s permission to construct and generate power plants by a vote of 94-93.
The next article to ask for the Legislature’s permission to build two turbines east of Airline Road and north of Old Chatham Road on 300 acres owned by the water district, however, was rejected 97-88.
“I don’t think we need to make every spot in town for wind turbines,” said Rose Austin, citing earlier votes by town meeting to consider putting turbines at the dump and at schools.
“If I’m a NIMBY I am a NIMBY,” she said. “I don’t want to live next to something that goes 24/7.”
A motion to reconsider the first wind energy related article was then approved and it too was rejected.
Voters then indefinitely postponed a third article that would have given the town of Dennis an easement on water district land.
Although the majority of residents clearly came for the debate over wind turbines the meeting dispensed with other decisions with far less debate including:
Approving salaries for the three water commissioners and the moderator;
Appropriating $3 million for operations and maintenance of the district;
Appropriating $1.1 million for general expenses;
Appropriating $538,250 for capital projects.
District residents rejected a proposal to transfer a parcel of land to the town that would have been used to address traffic concerns at the intersection of Route 134 and Airline Road.
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