BREWSTER – The board of selectmen approved (by a 5-0 vote) and signed a lease and power purchase agreement with Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative Monday night that will allow CVEC to erect twin 410-foot wind turbines just off Freeman’s Way next to Route 6.
That won’t be happening soon, however. The plan failed to get a required special permit from the town planning board Feb. 16, and CVEC voted 8-2-2 to appeal for a “special permit exemption” from the state Department of Public Utilities on March 17. CVEC haven’t filed that appeal yet, but Monday’s vote makes it more likely it will do so soon.
“I’m not really surprised,” said Mitch Relin, president of Brewster Citizens for Responsible Energy, after the vote. “We wanted to make sure our concerns and recommendations were placed before them on the record. I’m not surprised they chose to go ahead without much consideration. I feel our concerns continue to be marginalized. We’ll continue to monitor what they do.”
The meeting drew a large crowd, mostly opponents of the project, but the vote followed quickly after public comment.
“Wind is progress. It’s clean. It’s environmentally friendly. The town will gain something from it,” said selectmen chairman Peter Norton before voting “yes”.
“The process is imperfect, I had some misgivings,” noted new Selectman John Dickson. I feel we have to take the long view. This is a good deal for the town. It gives a likely greater benefit.”
Despite nearly an hour of comment, many felt left out.
“Since May we in the public were assured we would have input on conditions and mitigation. I have to say this doesn’t feel like input,” Relin said during the comment period. “It feels like we’re chasing a train that has already left the station.”
“I read the lease and was really sad that there is no provision or protection for people who live in the neighborhoods. You all must believe nothing bad is going to happen,” said a worried Kara Duff, who was near tears. “The only mitigation with the lease was for flicker on the golf course and you were willing to reduce the rent payments for the cost of the mitigation. Do you know how that makes us feel as citizens?”
“In a way, I wish I didn’t buy here because I feel unheard,” she added. “I like to think I matter too.”
Legal issues may matter as well. Attorney Christopher Senie of Westborough represents about 30 neighbors opposed to the project. He raised three objections to the lease of land for the turbines.
He said selectmen lacked the authority to approve the lease, since it is an “alienation of an interest in land” owned by the town and thus must be approved at a town meeting.
“I’ve never seen a (town) warrant article (from 2009) that alienated land that didn’t identify the parcel. That may be a flaw,” he said.
Selectman Ed Lewis said the town’s lawyers have vetted the documents and they were granted the authority by a pervious town meeting vote.
“This is the 13th or 14th final agreement we’ve had before us,” Lewis said. “I believe in my own heart that there have been scare tactics promulgated here in Brewster. These two agreements are exceptional in the way they are written.”
Senie contended the town has a conflict of interest as both the leaser (and financial beneficiary) and the entity responsible for regulation and the safety for citizens, and finally that the town needs to provide specific guidelines and protections for flicker and noise.
“I’m concerned with the unique character of sound pressure. What happened in Falmouth (where many residents have complained of noise and headaches) could happen here,” Senie declared. “The set of guidelines borrows from an old policy that is not useful for wind turbines that have unusual fluctuating amplitude noise pressure.”
“The town intends to create a baseline of sound so if there is a problem we’ll have something to compare it to,” noted Selectman James Foley.
Attorney Vincent DeVito, representing radio station WFCC, whose radio transmitter is 600 feet from the proposed turbines, said the project would drive the station off the air.
“The interference problem is real,” he proclaimed. “The expert we used spent two years in Europe focused exactly on that, interference with radio stations. This will shut down a business that employs many people. A classical music broadcast begs for quiet uninterrupted listening.”
While there were numerous opponents, some spoke in the project’s favor.
“My family needs and the citizens need to have this project move forward,” said Tim Gainey.
“CVEC has put up solar panels on two schools that produce 10 percent of the energy for the town of Brewster,” noted Richard Wolf. “The power purchase agreement here will provide green energy for the balance of Brewster. The energy committee is in favor.”
Relin promised to be at any future DPU hearing