In response to growing opposition from residents to a wind turbine at North Hill, selectmen this week voted 2-1 to recommend that the Alternative Energy Committee not pursue an article to fund additional studies for the project at next spring’s town meeting.
Selectman Ted Flynn crafted the motion that asked the Alternative Energy Committee “to withdraw any consideration of presenting a 2012 Town Meeting warrant article.” He and Selectman Christopher Donato voted in favor. Selectmen Chairman Shawn Dahlen voted against the motion
The Alternative Energy Committee is appointed by the selectmen and made up of volunteers.
A group of residents named “Duxbury Wind Wise” has organized against a proposal from the committee’s consultant that recommends the North Hill area as the best site for a wind turbine. The consultant’s report lists three possible sites for a turbine: site one is near the ninth hole tee box at the North Hill Country Club, site two is in a location called Kettle Hole near the North Hill marsh wildlife area and site three is closer to the Department of Public Works yard and the Mayflower Cemetery. All land is municipal.
Monday night marked Duxbury Wind Wise’s second appearance in front of the board of selectmen. At the first, spokesman Jack Murphy of Hound’s Ditch Lane – the neighborhood located closest to the proposed turbine site – presented the board with information about the potential risks of the project, including negative impacts on public health, safety, the environment and the aesthetics of the town, as well as a poor return on investment.
After presenting more information about the risks of a turbine, including the fact that 14,000 of them have been abandoned in the US, Murphy introduced Falmouth resident Neil Armstrong who lived near one of the Falmouth wind turbines. Armstrong told selectmen about the affects of the turbine on his and his neighbors health, which have included the following: sleep disruption, fatigue, hearing loss, mood disorders, depression, stress and heart palpitations. He discussed how it has affected his neighbors, even driving some of them into their basements to escape the noise of the turbine at night.
“It’s real, okay?” said Armstrong. “It’s something you need to look at.”
Hound’s Ditch Lane resident Ellen Nolan urged selectmen to take a stand and prevent the proposal from moving ahead.
“You’re putting us through the most incredible stress,” she said. “You don’t know what harm you’ve done by not shutting this thing down.”
Murphy asked selectmen what it would take to stop the proposal.
Flynn said that the Alternative Energy Committee could decide to table the project. He voiced his objection to the proposed turbine.
“As far as I’m concerned, if there is a health hazard, it’s a non-starter,” said Flynn. “If there is noise pollution, it’s a non-starter. If it doesn’t produce megabucks on the financials, it’s a non-starter.”
In offering his recommendation that the Alternative Energy Committee not pursue a town meeting article, Flynn said the committee could still research and study the effects of a wind turbine located at North Hill, but that work would have to be done without town funding. Flynn said he hoped that by requesting this of the committee that this action “will relieve some of the stress” the neighbors are feeling.
Donato agreed, saying: “Even if all the information they have is wrong, I don’t want the residents of Duxbury losing sleep and worrying about how this is going to affect their children or their housing.”
Dahlen said he could not support the vote because he said he did not have all the facts in order to make an informed decision.
“Part of the problem here is that we’re seeing one perspective. My job is to listen to all the residents of the town of Duxbury,” said Dahlen. “You’ve raised a ton of questions – all valid. I say to the committee evaluate all of these concerns. I think the dialogue is necessary. Different perspectives should be listened to and the committee should be allowed to do what it needs to do. But as a Board of Selectmen, we don’t arbitrarily stop a committee.”
Before selectmen voted, Alternative Energy Committee chairman Jim Goldenberg urged the board not to move in this direction.
“In essence, you are handcuffing us,” he said.
Goldenberg said that the committee was “a long way from saying we are in favor or opposed” to a wind turbine, because he said there were seven to eight issues that still needed studying before the committee would commit its support. The committee had received $80,000 in grant money to begin the process of researching the wind turbine and still had some of that money left over to continue more studies, said Goldenberg. However, the committee wanted the option of asking the town for up to $10,000 to study all the surrounding issues, he said. The information sought will include analyzing the affects of a turbine on birds and bats in the area, as well as other necessary wind project studies.
“Any one of these areas could be a fatal flaw in the project,” said Goldenberg. “We are a long way away from advocating for a wind turbine.”
Holly Morris, a member of the Community Preservation Committee and the Conservation Commission, argued that the selectmen should not take the vote to discourage the Alternative Energy Committee from bringing forward a Town Meeting article.
“This is a very dangerous precedent to make a recommendation like this to a committee,” said Morris. “I think this is completely severing the process.”
Dahlen offered an alternative way for residents to address their concerns and that is to present a town meeting article that would abolish the bylaw that allows municipal wind turbines, which residents voted for two years ago.
“If you want to kill this, ask for the elimination of the bylaw,” he said. “That will alleviate all anxiety.”