KINGSTON – In just five minutes, Selectmen Chairman Joe Casna went from hero to goat among supporters of Selectman Susan Munford’s motion to immediately shut down all four wind turbines – the Independence on the town landfill and developer Mary O’Donnell’s three turbines.
The applause was fleeting.
He originally voted along with Munford and Selectman Sandy MacFarlane to order all four shut down at least until sound studies could be conducted and the results announced in response to neighbors passionate about the need to declare the turbines a nuisance and threat to quality of life.
Casna explained why he first voted for it but then backtracked in the face of possible lawsuits by the operators – Kingston Wind Independence and No Fossil Fuel – for taking such action. He called his first vote irresponsible but said it was from the heart.
“You can’t listen to their presentation and not be moved by it,” he said. “You just can’t.”
He said he requested that the board reconsider its vote after Town Counsel Jay Talerman advised that it would need to support its vote by declaring the operators in violation of their contracts, thus opening a hornet’s nest. Casna said the board needs to be on level footing to take that step.
Instead, selectmen voted, 3-2, to notify the operators of the turbines that the board has serious concerns about the operation of the wind turbines in light of the concerns expressed by residents. A claim of breach of contract was not ruled out.
While Munford said it should be enough that the selectmen determine that the noise and flicker effect caused by the wind turbines to be outside acceptable limits, other board members were convinced by Talerman that only the Board of Health can in effect declare a nuisance and take action.
“Based on the adverse health conditions, I’m going to make a motion that we shut down the turbines until the testing is completed,” she said.
MacFarlane urged caution but said she wants to do the right thing. “We agree there’s a problem,” she said. “We don’t want people to move. We don’t want anybody sick, at all.”
Leland Road resident Doreen Reilly, Copper Beech Drive resident David Kennedy and Prospect Street resident Mark Wheeler were before the Board of Health as recently as last week and left unhappy with that board’s unwillingness to declare the turbines a nuisance or hire special counsel to represent the board.
More important than economics, Wheeler said, is the health of his wife, Agnieszka, and their unborn daughter. He read from a letter from her doctor that states she is unable to sleep between 1 and 3 a.m. due to the noise, and 2 to 3 p.m. on sunny days due to flicker, and needs medication for nausea. He said he will also get letters from prospective home buyers stating they don’t want to live near the turbines.
“What I heard before is, I need documentation, and what I’m doing is documenting, medically, and as far as my home sale goes,” he said.
As for Casna’s decision to initially support Munford’s motion, Kennedy said he was very surprised and caught off guard. Casna is also chairman of the Board of Health.
Kennedy is optimistic there can be a resolution. He said he’s willing to work with any board or committee to act sooner rather than later to alleviate the quality of life issues residents are having with the turbines operational.
He said he hopes the Board of Health will agree to issue a cease and desist order for the turbines until the sound study, to be discussed by the board next Monday night at 6 p.m. at the Town House, has been completed.
Still, it’s the Board of Selectmen that signed the contracts for the turbines that he says offer little protection to the 30 residents who have filed official complaints related to sound and flicker.
“It’s all well and good to go back to the Board of Health,” Kennedy said, “but in the end we’re going back to the selectmen.”
Selectman Dick Arruda did not rule out shutting the turbines down for some number of hours a day, or Wheeler’s suggestion that the Independence turbine could at least be moved.
“That’s not beyond the realm of possiblity,” he said.
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