December 16, 2011

Turbine opponents storm selectmen’s meeting

By Peggy Aulisio, Editor, 15 December 2011

FAIRHAVEN – After not being allowed on the selectmen’s agenda, opponents of two wind turbines being built on town land showed up Monday night anyway, carrying signs and interrupting the meeting.

Ann DeNardis, who represented about 10 abutters in a lawsuit, interrupted the meeting early on when Executive Secretary Jeffrey W. Osuch mentioned the new elementary school to be built on Sconticut Neck Road.

She asked if the wind turbines’ possible effects on health and safety had been considered as part of the school’s feasibility study. Mr. Osuch said it hadn’t because the school is not that close to the turbines.

Selectmen voted to recess. The board was then asked if that meant the video taping would be shut off. The answer was not clear at that point, but audience members reacted in outrage. Later, selectmen said the equipment is normally shut off during a recess.

“Unbelievable.” “That’s disgusting,” were just some of the comments by members of the audience when learning the recess apparently meant the meeting was no longer being taped for cable access television.

Select Board Chairman Michael Silvia said the board would set up an open meeting, however, with the turbine contractor and experts in the field where the opponents’ questions would be addressed.

“You were not put on the agenda,” he said. “You have many medical questions and questions of a scientific technical nature. I believe these are beyond our ken.”

Of the town’s plans to build wind turbines near the Department of Public Works on Arsene Street, he said, “This has been going on for years.”

Mr. Silvia said the turbine was approved by Town Meeting members about five years ago. The project was delayed by the court challenge when the special permit request was dropped by the developer, the board sought other ways to move it forward.

Mr. Silvia tried to get the close to 30 audience members to calm down and listen to him, but he was repeatedly interrupted and challenged.

He said, “Let us have some sort of forum where these questions can be answered in a very intelligent way.”

An audience member said turning off the video taping was a sign the board didn’t want the public to be informed.

But Mr. Silvia said, “I’d like a fair dialogue.” He said they would be accepting information and would review it prior to the forum.

Mr. Silvia said the turbines were taken off the agenda for that evening “because we wanted to get more information.”

Ms. NeNardis wanted to know if the board would delay the construction of the turbines, but Mr. Silvia would not agree to do that. The woods near the Board of Public Works on Arsene Street were cleared last month to make space for the turbines, which are near the bike path.

Selectman Brian K. Bowcock said some of the residents opposed to the turbines aren’t abutters, but live across the bay. He said they do not want the turbines to be part of their view.

Many of those who opposed the turbines, however, cite Falmouth, which has closed down its turbines at least temporarily because of abutters’ health complaints. Dartmouth recently pulled back from a wind turbine project, which abutters there tried to stop.

Selectmen ended the recess and went back into open session to vote on holding a forum on the turbines. They did not schedule a time or place.

The board then went on to its scheduled appointments, which began at 7 p.m., a half hour into the meeting, At that point, the crowd dispersed except for one woman who had tried to get the turbine on the agenda.

At the end of the meeting, resident Theodore Lorentzen criticized the turbine opponents’ behavior. “I was really shocked at some of the outbursts and I didn’t find it at all fruitful,” he said. “I don’t think this kind of behavior should be allowed at a selectmen’s meeting. I didn’t think it was appropriate at all.”

The woman who stayed behind when the rest of the group left then apologized for some of the audience menbers’ behavior.

Selectman Charles Murphy Sr. said, “When people are screaming and shouting, there is no choice but to go into recess.”

Mr. Murphy, who formed M.O., L.I.F.E. to help people with disabilities, said he is doing research on the possible health effects, if any, from wind turbines.

“I don’t think any of us want to harm the town,” he said.

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