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Kingston ZBA hearing opportunity to air wind turbine concerns

KINGSTON – Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman John Haas insisted the only focus of the meeting would be on Paul Armstrong’s decision to deny cease and desist orders for the Independence and Mary O’Donnell wind turbines.

He said there would be no discussion of noises, nuisances, distances or heights, the site plan approval process or Town Meeting approvals. The site plans were approved by the Planning Board, and Town Meeting spoke, he said, and it’s not the ZBA’s position to judge either.

Then residents start sharing insight to the sleepless nights, anxiety and general despair they say they are experiencing due to presence of the four large wind turbines within clear sight of their homes.

Leland Road resident Dan Alves said he knew there had been talk of wind turbines, of efforts by the town’s Green Energy Committee to pursue green power, but he was not informed about what it would really mean to have these wind turbines near his home.

“Never would I have experienced what I have experienced – headaches, dizziness, vertigo,” he said. “It sounds like a 747 that never lands.”

While attorney Christopher Senie spoke to the more technical reasons the ZBA should reverse Armstrong’s decision and start the approval process over, residents urged the board to look beyond the technicalities and at other bases for the appeal.

Country Club Way resident Chris Dewitt said his heart aches at the impact these turbines have had on his family and his neighbors. He said he personally has been woken up early in the morning, around 3:30 a.m. one day and 4 a.m. the next, because of the noise of the turbines.

“This is not sustainable,” he said. “Think about this decision in respect to the people.”

Haas said it’s difficult to know how anyone can argue they did not know the wind turbines were coming with all the many different meetings, including discussions at selectmen’s meetings, that were held in the years leading to installation of these four wind turbines this year.

Senie argued there should be a new site plan hearing and conditions should be set that make sense for operation of the wind turbines. He said he is not foolish enough to think the turbines would be shut down permanently. This time, he said, there needs to be a timely peer review of the plans.

“There is a whole set of potential controls that could still let these turbines generate good clean electricity but make them better neighbors in the neighborhoods in which they have been situated,” he said. “I believe they have been situated in those neighborhoods without proper thought.”

Kially Ruiz, co-manager of Kingston Wind Independence LLC, argued that Senie is off base in asserting that the site plan approval process was flawed in any way. He dismissed the argument that notification of residents was lacking and said all legal requirements were met.

“They had plenty of time to challenge the site plan approval,” he said.

The public hearing was continued to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 18, to give Zoning Board members time to review the testimony before them. Town counsel will be asked to be present for that meeting.

While he said he isn’t disregarding the opinions of the residents that the wind turbines are causing their health concerns and is sensitive to their concerns, Haas cautioned that the board that can only act as allowed by the scope of its responsibilities.

Town Planner Tom Bott encouraged residents to contact the Health Department with any concerns they have about living near the wind turbines. He said sound studies like the kind residents are asking for to make sure the turbines are operating as mandated by state regulations might be possible.

“Right now we are collecting information on complaints,” he said.