December 13, 2011

Selectmen agree to wind discussion after shouting match

By Beth Perdue, 13 December 2011

FAIRHAVEN – Selectmen are appealing to the developer to address resident wind concerns after a meeting this week deteriorated into a shouting match between town officials and turbine opponents.

Selectmen Michael Silvia said Tuesday that concerns raised by residents about the turbines, along with information submitted to selectmen, will be forwarded to the developer and a forum will be organized for future discussion.

“The developer, Gordon Deane, has been very good in addressing all the accusations and claims and concerns being made. … I think he will substantially answer all the claims,” said Silvia.

Deane is a partner with James Sweeney in the Fairhaven Wind LLC project to build two nearly 400-foot high, from base to blade-tip, wind turbines off Arsene Street. He has indicated a willingness to have the wind project manager come to Fairhaven to discuss the project with residents, Silvia said.

About 30 people attended Monday’s selectmen’s meeting to object to the wind project. Many held signs that noted health concerns and named other contested wind projects, according to a video of the meeting by the Windwise group. “Health studies before wind turbines,” and “Turbine noises causes harm to residents,” read two signs.

Although the group was not on the agenda, the subject was brought up as part of a discussion on the new Wood School building project. Attorney Ann DeNardis, a Fairhaven resident who represented Windwise members in 2008 legal action against the project, aggressively pushed selectmen to shut down turbine construction until responses could be made to the group’s questions. DeNardis raised concerns in the context of the new school, which she said would be within 2,000 feet of proposed turbines.

“What effects to the children to be educated at the Wood School were considered regarding the two 400-foot wind turbines that are to be placed within 2,000 feet of the brand new elementary school? What effects were considered in your feasibility study in the construction of the school,” DeNardis said, adding, “I am entitled to a response to my question.”

Selectmen quickly recessed the meeting after shouting eclipsed any conversation. Immediately after recess, even while loud debate continued, Selectman Brian Bowcock left the room to turn off the cable camera, which broadcasts meetings. Although several people verbally protested Bowcock’s action, the selectman did not acknowledge that he had, in fact, turned off the camera.

But Silvia later said the camera is sometimes turned off when selectmen are in recess.

“It was only turned off when we should have been in recess,” he said, adding that selectmen sometimes turn the camera sound off or leave the room during recess.

Grant Menard, a Little Bay resident and project opponent, said he was a little embarrassed by the out-of-control tone of the meeting but happy with selectmen’s suggestion of a future forum.

“I think that’s great. I applaud those actions; that the board is willing to listen to citizens,” Menard said about selectmen’s decision. “I welcome that forum. I’ll be there.”

However, Menard also questioned the credibility of the developers’ responses given that he has a major financial stake in the project.

“I have concerns that the developer is being swayed by his monetary interest in the project,” said Menard. “It’s like asking a tobacco company if cigarettes are bad.”

While he supports renewable energy projects in Fairhaven, Menard said he believes wind projects should be at least a mile away from residences.

“I believe there is a place for wind and solar in our community. I just don’t think it should be at the detriment of people living 900 feet away… This is going to be life changing for them,” he said.

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