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Bourne wind project voted down

BARNSTABLE – After two years and thousands of pages of public testimony, the Cape Cod Commission voted Thursday to deny without prejudice a four-turbine wind project proposed for Bournedale.

“We’re excited. Basically they did the responsible thing and erred on the side of caution,” Mark Hebb, a Bourne resident whose home would be near the turbines, said. “It’s all about responsible siting.”

The county regulatory board spent three hours Thursday discussing the project in front of a packed house.

Tudor “Jerry” Ingersoll, who proposed the project along with Cape Cod Aggregates and its owners, the Lorusso family, declined to comment after the meeting.

Thursday’s vote brought smiles to dozens in the room, many of whom wore anti-wind stickers, after a tense-back-and-forth about the project.

An initial tie vote to determine if there were more probable benefits or detriments “underscored the difficulty of deciding this project,” Bourne commissioner Michael Blanton said.

After commission Chairman Peter Graham of Truro led a motion to reconsider, the board voted 8-4 that there were more detriments than benefits.

Early on, discussion among commissioners seemed to lean in favor of New Generation Wind after the board voted to agree, against a subcommittee’s recommendation, that one of the turbines should be considered a “neighborhood” turbine that would contribute directly to the area’s energy needs.

Commissioners also disagreed with the subcommittee’s view that the project would not be an economic benefit and that vegetable-oil-based lubricant for the turbines was hazardous.

And a handful of commissioners expressed the belief that the probable benefits were quantifiable while the detriments were speculation.

“A lot of the probable detriments seem nebulous or iffy,” Brewster representative Elizabeth Taylor said.

But those voices were outnumbered after others on the board expressed concern about the turbines’ possible impact on abutters’ health and property values.

“If we’re going to err on one side or the other, we should err on the side of caution,” Blanton said.

By denying the project without prejudice, board members left the option open for New Generation Wind to refile its project at any time, commission counsel Jessica Wielgus said.

The journey to Thursday’s vote was a two-year process that included dozens of public meetings and heated testimony from proponents and opponents.

“It’s 35 pounds worth of evidence,” Yarmouth commissioner Jack McCormack joked Thursday about the amount of information his board received.

After a vote at Bourne’s 2010 spring town meeting that created wind turbine regulations for the town, New Generation Wind backers moved swiftly to file plans with the commission for a seven-turbine project in the area of a proposed Bournedale technology park.

Several public meetings before a five-member subcommittee occurred during the first round of deliberations on the project. But after public outcry, New Generation withdrew its plans in early March and refiled them later that month.

The move kicked off a second round of public hearings in which a similar division of opinions emerged during hours of testimony.

In May, voters approved stricter bylaws for wind turbines in Bourne, though New Generation was considered under the more lenient 2010 rules.

Over the course of several months, New Generation Wind eliminated three turbines from its original project plans before settling on a proposal of four turbines: three 2.5-megawatt and one 2-megawatt.

In November, in the first step toward the project’s rejection, the subcommittee ruled against recommending the project to the Cape Cod Commission after finding more probable detriments than benefits.

After that, New Generation proponents went on the offensive, charging at the commission’s first meeting on the topic Feb. 2 that the board was favorable toward a recent solar panel proposal with similarities while being unnecessarily critical of New Generation.

And just hours before that meeting, an attorney representing New Generation Wind sent a letter asking Cape Cod Commission members Roger Putnam of Wellfleet and Blanton of Bourne to recuse themselves from voting on the turbine project because of their perceived views on wind projects.

Putnam had previously spoken out against wind projects on Cape Cod and Blanton represents a town where selectmen had voted not to support this project.

Putnam recused himself early on Feb. 2, while Blanton stayed to hear testimony that day and participated in Thursday’s decision.

“I have maintained an equal and fair viewpoint,” he said.