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State reps take stand on wind turbines

PLYMOUTH – Wind turbines are generating a hurricane of debate these days as more developers attempt to locate them in or near residential neighborhoods.

Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, and Rep. Vinny DeMacedo, R-Plymouth, have both taken positions against the siting of wind turbines in residential neighborhoods. Rep. Tom Calter, D-Kingston, says the the location of turbines should be up to the individual towns.

In a letter to Plymouth’s Zoning Board of Appeals, Murray speaks of her support of wind energy, but says residential neighborhoods are no place for turbines.

“It is my strong belief that industrial-size wind turbines do not belong in residential neighborhoods,” Murray writes. “Wind turbines have been a part of the renewable energy conversation in the commonwealth for some time now and I support wind energy….However, we must ensure that municipalities can move forward with turbine projects while preserving the health and well-being of residents. No one should be subject to unnecessary discomfort as a result of any turbine…”

DeMacedo said he, too, has been a supporter of wind energy for years but has been amazed by the push back from neighborhoods where turbines have been proposed.

“I support them, but when they are directly abutting a neighborhood, the neighbors that are affected should have some say as to whether they are installed or not,” deMacedo said.

Gov. Deval Patrick tried to pass a bill last year that would have loosened local control over wind turbines, and deMacedo said he was among many legislators who didn’t support it.

It’s one thing if abutters back a wind turbine project in their neighborhood, he added, particularly if they glean some benefit from the project. But forcing neighborhoods to simply accept turbines is another matter.

Calter said he strongly supports wind energy and lives in a neighborhood where turbines have been constructed. Kingston’s Town Meeting passed a wind energy bylaw that eliminated the need for special permits for wind turbine projects. But that was Kingston’s choice, Calter said, and it ought to be the same for other towns.

“I think residents have a right to their quiet enjoyment,” Calter said. “I think we have to be very wise with respect to our zoning bylaws and the public process. There are zoning laws in place that protect neighbors. I think the current zoning requirements need to be enforced.”

Residents need to make themselves heard through Town Meeting and their local legislators, Calter added. It should be up to the town whether wind turbines should be allowed in residential areas or not.

In Plymouth, wind turbine projects proposed off Hedges Pond Road and Head of the Bay Road have those neighborhoods up in arms. The Head of the Bay project was permitted, but is under appeal. The push back on a wind turbine project proposed at Plymouth North High School was so intense the plan was withdrawn, as was another plan to site a wind turbine in a junkyard on Columbus Road in North Plymouth. A wind turbine set to appear some time near the Colony Place Walmart hasn’t generated an appeal, but abutters aren’t happy about it.

The Zoning Board of Appeals is set to consider the Hedges Pond Road wind turbine project tonight (Wednesday). It remains to be seen whether the local legislators’ views on the subject will factor into the ZBA’s decision.