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Marblehead: Town cool to turbine plan

MARBLEHEAD – It’s not scenery that Marblehead residents are concerned about when they consider the proposed wind turbine on Winter Island in Salem. Residents who live near Marblehead’s western coast are already used to Salem’s towering coal-fired power plant.

Local residents are concerned instead about noise.

“It’s an annoying sound,” Marblehead resident Peter Carlton said of wind turbines. “It’s 24/7, all night, every night. It’s not something good neighbors would do to their neighbors.”

Some Marblehead residents live about 900 meters across the water from where the approximately 400-foot high turbine would be placed. Some are worried the sound will be onerous, decrease property values and make life less enjoyable in Marblehead.

The turbine’s feasibility study said the turbine should add about 3 decibels of noise across the water on Marblehead’s shore – a sound that is well within what is allowed by state law.

Still, some residents and town officials are not convinced.

“First of all, I am very concerned about this wind turbine given some of the complaints I have heard from other communities,” Marblehead Selectman Harry Christensen said in reference to ongoing issues in towns like Falmouth, where residents have complained about annoying, constant noise levels near that town’s first turbine installation.

“I’m reserving judgment until I know exactly what the impact will be,” Christensen said.

Christensen, like other Marblehead residents, said he was generally in favor of green power.

Advocates of wind power, such as local non-profit HealthLink, have said turbine technology has improved in recent years and is now quieter and more efficient.

Marblehead, however, doesn’t get a vote in the matter; whether to build is the decision of Salem city officials.

The Marblehead Board of Selectmen recently sent a letter to Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll asking that she continue to be aware of Marblehead’s concerns.

Resident Pat Pollard said she is a proponent of wind power, just not when it’s located in residential areas.

Pollard said distance was the answer – turbines located a mile and a half away from residents are too distant to cause noise issues.

“They should consider siting the wind turbine offshore,” Pollard said.

Driscoll said at the first public meeting on the turbine on Aug. 2 that most other sites wouldn’t work because of the expense of connecting the turbines with the electrical grid.

Already, there is the buzz of legal action.

Carlton said that if the turbine is erected and noise levels rise more than the 10 decibels allowed by law, he would consider suing.

“It’s going to be a real Salem issue if they have to shut it down,” Carlton said.

Christensen said Marblehead residents have a number of avenues, “including litigation,” if they want to raise concerns about the project, although he said he hopes it will not come to a fight in the legal system.

“People have to be concerned about their property rights,” he said. Christensen advised residents to go to any upcoming public meeting on the project to voice their concerns.

A second public meeting will be held in the fall. According to the Aug. 2 hearing in Salem, if all is approved, the project could be complete by the end of 2012.