November 30, 2012

No special counsel for Kingston Board of Health

By Staff reports | Wicked Local Kingston | November 29, 2012 |

KINGSTON – Two words, “the process,” incited anger among residents who want the Independence wind turbine shut down.

They are demanding immediate action by the Board of Health, but the majority of the board members say they are still at the information gathering stage and need to follow a process for making any decisions.

What is planned is a public meeting with the consulting group, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, and the Consensus Building Institute, the organization that will carry out a sound study. The parameters of the study will be a topic of discussion.

The meeting was scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17, as of Wednesday night, but board members talked about rescheduling it for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12, at the Town House. A representative from the state Department of Environment Protection will be invited to the two-hour meeting by the board.

Board of Health member Dan Sapir’s proposal that the board have its own legal counsel was rejected by a 4-1 vote Wednesday night. Selectmen would have to approve legal counsel. He said he understands why selectmen want to protect the turbine, because it generates revenue, but not his board, with a separate interest in protecting the health of its residents.

“One is monetary, clearly monetary, the other is health, and the two do not share the same space,” he said.

More immediate action was demanded by many of the people filling the seats in the meeting room. Some believe the Board of Health doesn’t have to wait for that legal advice because it has the legislative power to investigate, declare a nuisance and take immediate action and shut the turbines down.

Leland Road resident Dan Alves said state regulations give the board the power to declare the turbine a nuisance as a threat to health and take action.

“The board shall destroy, prevent or remove such nuisances,” he read. “It shall make regulation relative to nuisances.”

Town Counsel Jay Talerman would not be able to represent the Board of Health in legal action, because his firm helped negotiate the turbine contracts for the turbine on town property. Yet he advised that the board could declare the turbine a nuisance, resulting in possible enforcement action.

The board would have several options, he said, but he suggested the board should wait until it has the results of the sound study.

“It can seek the removal of the nuisance altogether, the abatement of the nuisance or something in between,” he said. “It could do that by issuing an order directly to the property owner,” also advising that the board order removal without a court order.

Prospect Street resident Mark Wheeler said some residents have said they do not want to leave their homes, but he and his family desperately want to get out. Attempts to sell their home have met with failure, he said, once prospective buyers have experience the turbines for themselves.

“I just ask that the people involved in voting come and see,” he said.

While Wednesday night was Wheeler’s first time before the board, several residents have been pleading with the Board of Health for weeks to take action. Leland Road resident Maureen Reilly, who again asked that the turbine be shut down, said only Sapir from the board has visited her house.

Copper Beech Drive resident David Kennedy appeared before the Board of Selectmen Tuesday night to put the board on notice that there are many Kingston residents with real issues with the turbines.

As he explained further Wednesday night before the Board of Health, the contracts the town signed with the owner of the Independence turbine include no protections from the noise and flicker that are plaguing so many people. He urged both boards to take action to protect residents.

“This town has gone through enough in the past nine months,” he said.

The Board of Health vote unanimously, 5-0, Wednesday night to send a letter to the DEP detailing all the complaints that have been filed by residents. They also agreed to ask the consultant to study flicker effect while undertaking the sound study but would not reconsider hiring special counsel.

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