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Town Meeting rejects bid to halt turbines

FAIRHAVEN – An effort to put a stop to two 1.5-megawatt wind turbines from being built failed by a vote of 134 to 80 at Wednesday’s special Town Meeting.

Also failing were articles making it easier to recall elected officials and for term limits restricting them to serving six years.

Windwise was allowed 15 minutes for a presentation against the turbines. Windwise showed slides as well as a video featuring people in Falmouth who recounted negative experiences with wind turbines. When the video hadn’t ended by the 15-minute time limit, Windwise was told to shut it off.

At the insistence of Windwise, however, a vote was taken on whether to let the video run for five more minutes. At first, it seemed a majority wanted to stop it, but a hand count was conducted and the video won out.

Someone pointed out that the vote count took longer than five minutes, but that’s what Town Meetings are all about.

The Windwise presentation was followed by a 15-minute rebuttal by Executive Secretary Jeffrey W. Osuch and developer Sumul Shah. Mr. Shah works for Solaya Energy, one of three investors in Fairhaven Wind LLC.

Mr. Osuch said the 2007 Town Meeting rejected several articles that would have addressed some of Windwise’s concerns. Among them were provisions to study the flicker effect, fire hazards, noise levels and optimal setbacks.

Mr. Shah said the turbines being installed in Fairhaven are six decibels quieter than the ones in Falmouth. He said it was “the difference between a whisper and a lawn mower.”

He also disagreed that the turbines hurt property values.

Town Moderator Mark Sylvia recused himself from the wind turbine article, citing as a conflict his position as a commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources. Town Clerk Eileen Lowney served in his place for the wind turbine portion of the meeting.

Ms. Lowney read an opinion from Town Counsel Thomas Crotty, who said Town Meeting couldn’t reverse its 2007 vote because selectmen have entered into a binding contract. The developers have said they will sue if the town backs out of the $8 million project.

After both sides made their cases, Town Meeting members got up to speak.

Turbine opponent Henry Ferreira said “I don’t know how anybody can watch that video of people in Falmouth and not be touched.”

Mr. Ferreira said state legislators are starting to understand the problems associated with wind turbines and to consider mandating greater distance from residences. He said Fairhaven should wait to see what setbacks are required.

Barbara Acksen, a psychologist, said, “The question is, why are people getting sick? We’re not all the same. People react differently.”

The recall and term limit articles were dispensed with earlier in the evening.

Select Board Chairman Michael Silvia argued strongly against them, saying they have been tried in the past and failed.

Mr. Silvia cited the service of Walter Silveira, who was a selectmen for more than 40 years. He said Mr. Silveira was highly regarded and was the first Fairhaven selectman of Portuguese descent.

Mr. Silvia said recalls should be difficult to achieve or else people can use it for political reasons.

An article providing retroactive raises of 1 percent to highway, park and clerical unions passed overwhelmingly.

“They finally have settled,” Mr. Osuch said.