FAIRHAVEN – Board of Selectmen members Brian Bowcock and Bob Espindola are once again sparring over the board’s treatment of opponents to the town’s two wind turbines.
After reviewing the Planning Board’s latest draft of a bylaw that would halve the size and quadruple the setbacks for future turbine projects, Espindola is advocating that the town first deal with complaints it has received regarding the existing turbines.
Since the turbines became operational in May, the town’s Board of Health has received 365 complaints from a total of 50 residences and businesses, according to Health Agent Patricia Fowle.
In an interview Friday, Espindola said the existing complaints haven’t been addressed, and if the town allows more turbines, “there is a certain level of complaints that could come in.”
Before the new bylaw is accepted, he said he wants to hear from Board of Health members on whether they have any concerns.
“I think people need to know the order of magnitude of the complaints before we grant a bylaw that will grant certain permissions for development,” he said.
At the Dec. 27 meeting, Espindola suggested the selectmen hold a joint meeting with the Board of Health to discuss the complaints and the bylaw, according to an article published in The (Fairhaven) Advocate, part of SouthCoast Media Group. As chairman of selectmen, Bowcock denied the request, saying “It’s not for us to have a discussion with the Board of Health.”
Bowcock did not respond to three requests for comment for this article.
Espindola said at the Dec. 27 meeting that he had previously submitted 11 questions to the Board of Health asking its opinion of whether the draft bylaw is protective of residents, but that the board had not responded to him, The Advocate reported.
Bowcock in turn said Espindola’s comments were “beyond the agenda” of the meeting and suggested he bring it up at the next meeting of the Board of Health.
That meeting, whose agenda now includes discussion of Espindola’s questions, is scheduled for Monday at the same time of the next meeting of the Board of Selectmen, thus prohibiting Espindola from attending.
This is not the first time Espindola and Bowcock have butted heads over wind turbines. At an earlier meeting in December, Bowcock rejected repeated requests from Espindola to allow members of the turbine opposition group Wind Wise to speak to the board. Also during that meeting, Espindola advocated that the Board of Health should not wait for results of the state sound study of the turbines before brainstorming ways to help complainants.
“I have had people say to me that I am trying to advance the cause of Wind Wise, but I am not affiliated with any group of people or any specific person,” Espindola said Friday. “What I am trying to find out is whether the Board of Health has any concerns.”
Charlie Murphy, the board’s third selectman, said Friday he has largely remained silent on the issue “not because Dr. Bowcock told me to,” as some have suggested, but because he was “being respectful of the process which is run through the Planning Board.” Of the disagreement between his two board mates, Murphy said “It’s been quite interesting.”
“They have different points of view, and opposite points of view, but that’s what makes a board a board,” he said.
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