Fairhaven town officials have again mindlessly jumped on the next new thing. Our executive secretary and his board are always ready and willing to offer up the people they represent as guinea pigs. In years past it was a regional dump, then regional sludge plants, one of which burned demolition debris. Now it’s two massive turbines beside a pristine marsh next to homes and a school.
As before, they proclaim they’ve met all of the legal requirements and there will be no negative impacts. Led by Jeff Osuch, they’ve come close to destroying what’s left of this town’s character and sense of place. As before, they have ignored the neighbors, they’ve ignored the health impacts and have worked behind closed doors. They know opposition will be determined and multiplied exponentially by proximity. As always, they pit one section of this small town against another.
Brian Bowcock, the selectman pushing this project, brands the opposition NIMBYs. I’m a NIMBY. I’ve been one for a long time. We and other NIMBYs have fought off projects, including Bio Safe, Netco and Azurix. We are a safer, healthier, better town because of the NIMBYs.
Now it’s two Chinese-made industrial turbines. Bowcock says everything was done in full light. As with all the other projects, the facts appear to contradict him. No abutters notified, project kept under wraps until after the Wood/Rogers School vote, the clearing done over Veterans Day weekend and erection of the turbines due to begin during Christmas.
Bowcock says there are no negative impacts, health or otherwise. He says one of the most vocal critics is not even one of the non-notified abutters. Bowcock writes in a letter to the Fairhaven Neighborhood News, 12/8, “You live more than a mile away,” “The turbines pose absolutely no health hazard to you and your wife.”
One can assume from his statement, he feels setbacks do make sense and he inadvertently admits there are health hazards for those within a mile. He writes in this letter, he was honoring our nation’s veterans while the developer ripped out the trees along the bike path to make way for Fairhaven’s Chinese turbines.
He’s quite a patriot, however one might think buying an American-made turbine built by veterans would be a good way to honor them. But those pesky setback rules are problematic. The American made turbines come with setback regulations from the manufacture, the Chinese turbines don’t. As always, with this selectman, when expediency trumps honor. The setback distances protect the company against lawsuits. Who will protect the town if these Chinese turbines are erected?
If there is any hope it’s at the health board. They have all the evidence they need to understand these 400-foot turbines do pose a risk. The turbines are too close to homes and to Wood School.
The health board has the responsibility and power to stop them. Tom Crotty, the town’s longtime legal defender of these type projects, played the lawsuit card in The Standard-Times on Dec. 8, “Turbine foes rally support”: “The Board of Health has the authority to make you stop doing something if they determine it is a public nuisance, but you have the right to sue them if they’re wrong,” I’m sure the health board has received this message.
A lawsuit is unlikely; it would poison the well for the developer. Regardless the health board members need to ask themselves would they rather fight the developer or the people they’ve pledged to protect.
Henry Ferreira lives in Fairhaven.
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