WESTPORT – The Alternative Energy Committee heard strong feelings expressed both for and against construction of a wind turbine near the new fire station, during a hearing expected to be the last held before a decision is made about whether to continue with the project.
With representatives from state regulatory agencies present, Monday’s hearing saw proponents of the project emphasizing the financial benefits and the need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, while the most vocal opposition centered on the proposed site’s proximity to the Beach Grove Cemetery.
Committee Chairman Antone Vieira said the Committee would meet again sometime in the next couple of weeks to determine what action to take next.
Those who objected to the placement of a turbine near the fire station cited concerns about safety, as well as “quality of life” issues such as noise and shadow flicker. Several of them said they were not opposed to wind turbines or other renewable energy projects in general, but objected to using this particular site for such a purpose.
“I don’t think anyone should have to have one in their front yard or their back yard,” said Pauline Dooley. “There has to be a site that is non-invasive.”
Some residents who owned a plot of land on the cemetery property or knew someone buried there also objected. One man said his daughter, who died at an early age, was buried there.
Proponents of the project, meanwhile, focused on the potential environmental and financial benefits of the project. Tony Connors said he understood concerns about the cemetery, given that he and his wife also own a plot there, but said this did not keep him from supporting the project.
“We don’t plan on moving there until we’re dead, at which point we don’t expect to be affected by flicker or noise,” Connors said.
Former Alternative Energy Committee Chairman David Dionne also spoke in favor of the project. He said that in researching existing wind turbine projects in other communities, he found similar objections had been raised, but that the projects ultimately proved worthwhile.
“One thing (we learned is) everyone’s in favor of renewable energy,” Dionne said. “The other thing is, ‘just not here.’”
Vieira, who had previously expressed skepticism about the proposed turbine site, cautioned those present to be open-minded and listen to differing viewpoints on the issue. He said that while he does not consider the site near the fire station as ideal, he understands the previous committee’s reasons for selecting it, including the desire to use town-owned land in order to avoid disputes over use of the land.