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Bourne residents call for stricter turbine rules

BOURNE – Board of health members are poised to vote on creating health guidelines for wind turbines in town. But on Wednesday night, panel members heard several reasons why their current draft isn’t thorough enough.

Though the attendance at Wednesday night’s meeting was decidedly lower than the majority of recent meetings about wind turbines in town, a handful of speakers scrutinized nearly every section of the five-page draft document.

“This needs to be commented on … probably more than can be done at this particular meeting,” said New Generation Wind consultant John Lipman of Lipman Development Strategies.

Nearly a year ago, the board “found that there are health effects and nuisances” associated with wind turbines and decided to create regulations, according to the board’s draft of its proposed regulations. To combat harmful wind turbine effects that have been reported in other towns, including Falmouth, the proposed regulations seek to address and limit noise and shadow flicker.

The proposed rules also would create limits on how long turbines can sit unused, and they would require turbine applicants to present a plan in the case of “catastrophic failures” of the machines.

Applicants would be required to get a permit from the board of health for each turbine planned, not just one permit for an entire wind farm, board chairwoman Kathy Peterson said.

Stating that the regulations “lack clarity and completeness,” Lipman was the only speaker who said he believed the proposed regulations were too stringent regarding future turbines’ speed and shadow flicker, and he said the absence of a peer-reviewed study about turbine health affects needed to be addressed.

“There’s certainly a lot of ambiguity,” he said.

Other speakers echoed Lipman’s sentiments that the proposed regulations are not specific enough, but they argued that the rules could go even further.

“There’s a question of … how do you measure it,” Bourne resident John Riha said of regulations requiring turbine applicants to conduct sound studies on ambient noise before and after construction.

Riha and others expressed concern that measurements taken at the base of wind turbines or in areas away from residential neighborhoods wouldn’t give an accurate depiction of ambient noise or the turbines’ effects on residents.

“I think this has to be viewed very critically,” Riha said.

The board of health is likely to vote on the proposed regulations at its regular meeting Wednesday, Peterson said.