Turbine plan surprised them, residents say; Indian Pond neighbors call project detrimental
Credit: By Christine Legere, Globe Correspondent, www.boston.com 8 March 2012 ~~
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With generally favorable press and its cluster of five wind turbines up and visible to travelers on Route 3, the town of Kingston has gained wide attention as a model of green energy in Massachusetts. But some property owners in a high-end neighborhood near the power generators complain the green label was earned at their expense.
A group of Indian Pond Estates residents whose properties abut three of the turbine sites say they did not know about the turbine projects prior to construction, and they fear the spinning giants will reduce their quality of life and value of their homes.
The turbines at issue are 400-foot industrial models built by local businesswoman Mary O’Donnell on property bordering Indian Pond, an upscale subdivision of $1 million homes. The other two turbines, one owned by the town and the other by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, are farther from the subdivision.
Lisa Obey, a Country Club Way resident who calculates her property is about 800 feet from the closest wind towers, said she has noticed a flicker effect, a light-shadow play caused by a turbine’s whirling blades, from O’Donnell’s turbines. “We can also hear them, especially on windy days. It’s like a hard ‘swoosh’ sound,’’ she said. Obey said she and her neighbors are in shock.
“They’re upset we had no notification from the town,’’ she said. “I think it’s ridiculous we have to deal with this. People here have invested a great deal of money in their properties.’’
Neighbor Piotr Lazowski said he first learned of the project from construction workers erecting the towers.
“I now have a horrible opinion of the town I live in,’’ Lazowski said. “These things should be away from residential areas.’’ He said he would gladly join any group willing to battle the turbine project, although many believe it is probably too late.
Tom Bott, Kingston’s town planner, said he was surprised that Indian Pond residents were not aware of the turbine projects.
“I guess it’s conceivable they’re just really very busy people who are not engaged in local business,’’ he said. He conceded the town’s renewable-energy bylaw, approved as part of the state’s green communities initiative, pared the permitting process to a simple site-plan review.
“While we don’t notify abutters, we still have legal ads for the hearings, and it’s posted on the Planning Board’s agenda,’’ Bott said, noting that the renewable-energy bylaw and zoning changes made to accommodate the town’s and O’Donnell’s wind towers were thoroughly discussed at town meetings and required a two-thirds majority vote to pass.
“I don’t remember it being a squeaker,’’ he said.
Obey had harsh words especially for state Representative Thomas Calter, a fellow property owner in Indian Pond, saying, “He could have at least put notes in our mailboxes about the meetings.’’
Calter disagreed, pointing out he is a state legislator. “People have elected local officials to handle local affairs,’’ he said. “As a citizen, I attended the town meetings, and these projects were discussed in great detail.’’
Calter said everyone in town should have known about the turbines. “This was the most widely publicized story of the year,’’ he said. “Democracy is a team sport. Everybody has got to get involved.’’
The turbines are not visible from Calter’s property, but he is building a new home elsewhere in the subdivision. “From there, you’ll see the biggest wind turbine from my picture window,’’ he said.
Julie and Todd Davis, Country Club Way residents, don’t share Calter’s positive view of the windmills.
“It looks like we live in an industrial park,’’ Julie Davis said. “When a prospective buyer drives in, they’re going to see these things and turn right around.’’
Meanwhile, the town’s turbine, dubbed the Independence, also has at least one detractor.
Joanne Levesque, a Duxbury resident and a member of the Duxbury Wind Wise group that fought against her town’s own turbine plan, has lodged a complaint with state officials over the location of Kingston’s turbine. The wind tower looms over Route 3 from its perch 500 feet above sea level, standing atop a closed landfill.
“My angle has been: This sucker is too close to the highway, and wait until they turn it on,’’ Levesque said. The switch is set to be thrown March 15.
“My impression is there’s been such a rush to site wind turbines, but no parallel effort to get regulations in place to make sure they are sited properly,’’ she said. State officials told her to contact Mark Sylvia, commissioner for the state Department of Energy Resources.
Sylvia said he steered Levesque back to Kingston officials.
“Bylaws for these projects go through a rigorous review, and at the end of the day, decisions on setbacks and other requirements are made by the community,’’ Sylvia said. Regarding the location of the Independence, he added, “My understanding is the Department of Transportation determined there were no additional permits required from them.’’
Sylvia said projects like Kingston’s yield considerable public benefit.
“They improve the environment and reduce greenhouse gases,’’ he said. “They also reduce energy costs.’’
Selectman Mark Beaton of Kingston, an enthusiastic green-energy proponent, said the Independence will yield the town $1,000 each day it spins.
“I’ll tell you what I’ve been hearing,’’ he said. “People are coming up to me and asking when the turbine is going to spin. They know it’s a money stream.’’
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