KINGSTON – Eleven Kingston families are requesting that Zoning Enforcement Officer Paul Armstrong issue separate cease and desist orders to prevent operation of the wind turbine Independence on the town’s capped landfill and to stop operation of the three wind turbines on business owner Mary O’Donnell’s Marion Drive property.
In both requests, filed through their attorney, the Country Club Way, Leland Road and Copper Beach Drive residents are challenging the validity of the site plan approval and building permits for the four wind turbines.
O’Donnell’s three wind turbines are operational, while the Kingston Wind turbine is expected to be operational by mid-May.
Attorney Christopher Senie, representing the families, said his clients are seeking to have the site plan approval process start over again.
“I don’t think enough thought went into the siting of these turbines,” he said. “I think the site plan approval was defective, and I think it should be done again.”
He said consideration would then be given to one of the main concerns to his clients, the distressing sound pressure created by the blades of the turbines over the more than an acre swept area, the area swept by the blades, that can travel far.
Senie said he also has concerns about the proximity of the Independence turbine to Cranberry Road and Route 3, particularly ice flow and shadow flicker, especially in the afternoon. He said the turbine is very poorly cited.
In both of the letters to Armstrong, Senie argues that the wind turbines were installed prematurely before proper approval by the attorney general’s municipal law unit, that the applicants failed to file proper notice with the town clerk, and that a peer review should have been conducted as part of the site plan review process.
Senie writes that the failures of notice help explain why his clients were unaware of the site plan approval process and therefore did not participate in the process.
Additionally, Senie also states that the wind turbines, which are larger than the turbines causing distress to residents in Falmouth, “can create a thumping, pulsing, variable, amplitude modulated, lower frequency sound pressure which travels a considerable distance from the turbines.”
“The required seriousness was absent from the site plan application process undertaken in this case,” he writes in both.
Armstrong said Tuesday he has not yet acted on these requests, dated Monday, April 9. Armstrong received them April 10, on the second day of Town Meeting. He was not in the office Wednesday.
Town Administrator Jim Thomas said the cease and desist letters to Armstrong will be reviewed by town counsel for a legal opinion. The letters were forwarded to town counsel Wednesday morning.
O’Donnell confirmed receipt of the letter and said she has forwarded it to her attorney. She said she wishes that anyone with concerns about her turbines would contact her directly. If there is a problem, she said, she can know better how she might try to address it.
She said she understands that some property owners may have an underlying fear that the value to their property from wind turbines will suffer but said that’s not the case.
“Nationwide, studies have shown they really don’t,” she said.
The Planning Board approved the disputed site plan for the town wind turbine June 28, 2010. O’Donnell received her separate site plan approval at that same meeting.
If Armstrong denies the requests, Senie has 30 days to appeal that decision to the Zoning Board of Appeals, he said. According to Senie, if Armstrong grants the requests and issues cease and desist orders, the town would have 30 days to appeal that decision. The ZBA would be asked to rule if there has been a zoning violation.
A public hearing on an appeal would be scheduled, and the public would have its opportunity to have a say. He said statute dictates that Armstrong respond within two weeks.
“There will be a hearing either way,” Senie said.
Senie said the previous town bylaw required special permit approval for turbines, a process requiring a greater amount of notice to the community, while approval of the Green Communities Wind Turbine Overlay District requires site plan approval.
He said this change created some of problems he outlines in his letters, but that the town isn’t even following the requirements of the more relaxed bylaw.
Although a formal hearing would not be required for site plan approval, Senie said he believes there should be a public hearing for consideration of any new site plan so the public could weigh in on what protections should be in place if residents are in distress related to the siting of the turbines.
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