PLYMOUTH – Don Smith, of Colony Place Development LLC, said he was happy to install the detuning device in the wind turbine he’s proposing next to Walmart so that the structure won’t jam radio signals from nearby WPLM. But WPLM’s request that he sign a contract that could result in his having to take the turbine down at any given time was going too far.
The Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously Wednesday night to grant Colony Place Development special permits to allow the installation of a 302-foot wind turbine located 100 feet from Walmart’s property line at Colony Place.
Colony Place Development will have to install a detuning device in the turbine right off the bat to ensure it doesn’t interfered with WPLM’s radio signal.
But the issue of the contract is a legal matter between the applicant and WPLM and has nothing to do with the ZBA, board members said.
It was the state’s Department of Transportation’s reluctance to sign off on the original proposal to site the turbine near Route 44 that killed the first plan. The new proposal shows the turbine’s fall zone on a portion of Walmart’s parking lot, instead, and on commercial space owned by Colony Place Development. Walmart expressed its support for the turbine, giving the project the green light it needed to move forward with a new application.
But Duxbury attorney John Woods, representing WPLM, said his client is dead set against the plan if Colony Place Development won’t install the detuning device and sign a contract ensuring WPLM will remain unharmed should the radio signal be impacted negatively by the structure in the future. Woods said he was given verbal assurances that the detuning device would be installed immediately and that the contract would be negotiated, but never heard back from his colleague, local attorney Ed Angley, who represents Colony Place Development.
“I got sandbagged,” Woods told the board. “They’ve done nothing to address our concerns.”
If studies performed before and after the installation of the turbine indicate the need for a detuning device, it will be installed, Angley said. Woods said this remedy isn’t good enough, since it will take time to fix the signal problem – precious time that could lose his client customers and jeopardize the radio station’s Federal Communication Commission (FCC) compliance.
With decades of experience performing design work for radio stations, WATD owner Ed Perry spoke on behalf of Colony Place Development, and noted that he works as a Verizon Wireless contractor analyzing the impacts of its facilities.
“I’ve conducted 100 studies to show the impact of a tower on a nearby radio station, and only once or twice we’ve had to detune a tower,” he said.
While WATD and WPLM are competitors in the local radio market, Perry said the stations look out for one another, and he is a friend and supporter of the Plymouth-based station. After checking the field strength of the signal at the proposed turbine site, he said it’s highly unlikely it would have a negative impact on WPLM’s radio signal. Should the unlikely occur, however, and the turbine creates interference, it wouldn’t impact the station’s local reach at all, he added; it would only impact far flung areas like Pennsylvania, during the evening hours. Perry echoed Angley in his assurance that the detuning device would be installed immediately should problems arise.
“Every day that our signal is down is costly,” Woods countered. “Our engineer suggests the detuning kit is the simple solution.”
Woods urged the ZBA to deny the special permits if a detuning device, costing between $12,000 and $15,000, isn’t installed in tandem with the turbine’s installation, and if the applicant won’t sign the contract protecting WPLM from any possible future issues caused by the turbine.
But ZBA member and attorney Ed Conroy said contract negotiations between the parties have nothing to do with the ZBA’s directive to determine if the project complies with the town’s bylaws. He suggested the board simply require the applicant to install the detuning device as a condition of approval. Doing this might also prevent a future lawsuit, he added.
Smith said it was he who suggested adding the detuning device during of the installation, and he is still happy to do so. But the contract WPLM wants him to sign gives the station far too much latitude to have the turbine removed, when it wouldn’t necessarily be clear that any interference was caused by it. Smith noted that he doesn’t have to sign the contract and doesn’t have to install the detuning device, which is probably unnecessary. But, as a good neighbor, he said he’s willing to compromise and install the device if doing so brings WPLM a measure of comfort. But the contract is another matter.
Speaking from the audience, WPLM General Manager Allan Anderson explained that his station is a bit “gun shy” over these projects after a less than cooperative neighbor installed an enormous cell tower that impacted WPLM negatively. If the detuning kit were installed with the tower immediately, he said WPLM will be happy to be more flexible about contract negotiations.
So, why a wind turbine at Colony Place?
Smith has acknowledged the turbine wouldn’t be a big money maker, but that he opted to pursue the project to promote green energy. Others in town say the plan is specifically to heighten the visibility of the development – literally to create a landmark that would draw crowds. Wednesday, Smith spoke of his plan to feature a plaque and meter on the turbine showing its energy output.