PLYMOUTH – You can’t stop a breeze from blowing. But, while a majority of Town Meeting members supported a two-year halt to industrial-sized wind turbines in residential zones, it wasn’t enough.
A total of 68 Town Meeting representatives voted in favor of two-year moratorium, but the 39 who voted against the measure carried the day. The final tally was just three votes shy of the required two-thirds majority.
Kerry Kearney, the petitioner for the moratorium article, addressed legislators before the vote, showing a video of a neighborhood saddled with the shadow-flicker of a nearby turbine. He also quoted from a letter penned by Senate President Therese Murray.
“I have consistently stated that industrial size turbines do not belong in residential neighborhoods.”
Kearney noted that Murray is a staunch supporter of green energy, and even she acknowledges how detrimental these machines are when sited near homes. The town’s bylaws on the subject only require a setback as high as the proposed turbine, Kearney added. If Plymouth thinks it has a problem with these behemoths now, the town needs to consider the fact that developers are, behind the scenes, seeking FAA approval to locate 11 more in residential neighborhoods.
“I feel like, with the existing bylaw, we’re just sitting ducks,” Kearney said. Moreover, he added, the bylaw doesn’t restrict projects that generate only marginal energy levels. Developers and property owners stand to make big money off these turbines even when the proposed site isn’t ranked as excellent for wind energy, he said.
Wind energy developer Simon Thomas countered that Plymouth has the most stringent wind energy bylaw on the South Shore, and the town’s consultants review projects extensively. Thomas cited various wind turbine projects across the region that have generated no complaints.
But local attorney and Precinct 12 Rep. Bill Abbott said the town didn’t realize the ramifications of large wind turbines when officials drafted the wind energy bylaw seven years ago.
“Our bylaw is an embarrassment, forcing residents to sue in order to protect their interests,” Abbott said.
Energy Committee member and fellow Precinct 12 Rep. Betsy Hall explained that her committee’s bylaw review subcommittee has too few members to revise the bylaw in a timely fashion. With only three members, it’s nearly impossible to get all members to the table to move ahead, she added, and strongly suggested a larger committee be created. The town’s bylaw was also not intended for large, industrial turbines, but the Attorney General’s office wouldn’t approve the bylaw unless it applied to all turbines. That, she added, was before officials knew the town was about to be barraged with these projects.
Ed Russell, a fellow Precinct 12 representative, agreed the bylaw needs to be revised. “The bylaw review committee has been suffering with constipation for years and the only way we are going to get them to move is with a pitchfork,” he said.
Precinct 2 Rep. Richard Serkey, also a local attorney, said creating a bylaw review committee with all the stakeholders represented in the debate is the answer, not a moratorium.
Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Peter Conner spoke at the behest of Precinct 5 Rep. Wrestling Brewster, who asked for the ZBA’s take on the debate. But Conner said he wouldn’t dare make a statement for or against the moratorium as his board’s decisions regarding the matter wind up in court more often than not.
While the measure didn’t pass the two-third’s vote required, the momentum of the proposed moratorium appears to be gaining ground, with more and more federal, state and local officials lining up on the side of disgruntled residents who want wind turbines banned from residential settings. Kearney and others in this group say wind turbines are detrimental to property values, health and their peace of mind.
Town Moderator Steven Triffletti chastised a gentleman who passed out copies of a Boston Globe article prior to Saturday’s vote. Information distributed to representatives at the meeting must be pre-approved, Triffletti said, and this was not.
According to that report, dated Oct. 17, the state is considering stricter noise regulations on wind turbine projects.
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