A survey sent to homeowners living within zero to one-half miles of the town-owned wind turbines show that most of the respondents prefer that the town purchase their homes rather than pay their home electricity costs or cover the cost of retrofitting their homes to increase the sound insulation.
Those results were discussed at the beginning of the Wind Turbine Options Process group meeting last Tuesday evening at the Falmouth Public Library. Eric Roberts, an associate with the Consensus Building Institute, provided details of the survey which was sent to 211 homeowners at the beginning of this month.
That survey sample was split into three subsections: 34 homeowners (24 responded) who are on the “official complaint list” of those impacted by the turbines; 12 home-owners (7 responded) who live from zero to one-fourth of a mile from the turbines; and 165 homeowners (47 responded) who live from one-fourth of a mile to one-half of a mile from the turbines. A total of 78 residents responded, equaling a 37 percent response rate. Group member Judith Fenwick later pointed out that any survey that has over a 30 percent response rate is significant, meaning the results should be taken seriously by the group.
Over 76 percent of respondents reported that they or someone in their home is either negatively impacted by the noise or suffers health impacts from the turbines; or is concerned about the impacts to their property values from the wind turbines; or is bothered by the appearance of the turbines. The remainder reported no adverse impacts from the town’s wind turbines.
Homeowners were also asked how best to operate the wind turbines, given five different scenarios that they answered separately. Those scenarios were to operate the turbine according to the manufacturer’s specifications; from 6 AM to 11 PM year-round; from 7 AM to 7 PM year-round; from 7 AM to 7 PM, only when wind speeds are under 10 meters per second; and any time of day or night but only when wind speeds are under 10 meters per second. Residents could respond to those questions by answering either to have the town purchase their home for fair market value; cover the cost of retrofitting their homes with new windows, doors and air conditioning; pay their electricity bills; they experience no adverse impacts from the turbines; or provide other responses.
In all but one proposed scenario—operating the wind turbines from 7 AM to 7 PM, only when wind speeds are under 10 meters per second—did less than 30 people respond that they wanted the town to purchase their home for fair market value. The town’s GIS coordinator Robert Shea was not as pleased as Ms. Fenwick with the number of responses. “I was expecting to receive from neighbors a lot more responses than we actually received,” he said. He argued that having a total of 34 impacted homes is a relatively small number when considering all the homes in the town. “I wouldn’t say 30 homes is a small group for a variety of reasons,” group member Todd A. Drummey responded. But group member Joseph L. Hackler disagreed. “It is 34 out of 211 homeowners out of 35,000 people in town so context is important,” he said.
When looking at the overall results of the study, facilitator Stacie N. Smith from the Consensus Building Institute in Cambridge, pointed out that the smallest response rate, at 28 percent, was those living from one-fourth a mile to one-half a mile. Those residents, she said, may not be particularly engaged with the town-owned wind turbines. She asked the group whether there was anything useful they found in the results from the survey.
Ms. Fenwick said she was struck by the fact that most impacted residents were not interested in any form of mitigation except having the town purchase their homes. The one concern in purchasing homes or ensuring homeowners receive fair market value when selling their homes, Mr. Shea said, is that the town has to determine who would qualify and who would not. Mr. Hackler agreed that there would need to be specific guidelines in place for the town to make a decision on which homeowners to compensate. “How do we arrive at that?” group member Alden H. Cook asked. And Mr. Drummey wondered how the town would determine how much the wind turbines have affected the fair market value of the homes.
Mr. Shea said that could be determined by looking at real estate sales in the neighborhood over the past two to three years. The idea of being forced to move out of their homes upset some of the impacted neighbors that are part of the turbine options process group. J. Malcolm Donald pointed out that many of those residents have put a lot of time and energy into their homes. “I want to stay in my home. I love my home,” Kathryn L. Elder said, adding that she was insulted that the only option could be that the town purchase her home. While she checked that option off when responding to the survey, she said she would have preferred an additional choice: tearing down the turbines and replacing them with a photovoltaic array.
With as many as 35 residents seeing home purchase as the preferred option, group member Jeffrey W. Oppenheim said, the town would need to set specific criteria on whose homes would qualify for that. Even still, he said, that could be challenged legally. “There will be a lawsuit no matter what we do here,” Mr. Shea said. “I don’t know about that,” Mr. Oppenheim countered.