As reported in a number of media outlets, the Falmouth, Mass., Board of Selectmen unanimously voted on Jan. 30 to support the removal of two of the town’s industrial-sized turbines, which have divided the Falmouth community and elected officials since they were erected approximately 2½ years ago. The Board has agreed to place the issue before the community. Cost estimates to remove them range from $5 million to $15 million.
Falmouth did a comprehensive study of the effects of turbines on resident life, commissioning a study at considerable expense to help guide the debate. A number of public hearings also played a vital part in the decision. Selectman David Braga summed up the gist of the Board’s findings: “Industrial-sized turbines don’t belong in residential neighborhoods.” On this point, he also voiced the exact sentiments shared by many Charles town residents.
For 2½ years Charlestown has been embroiled in a legal battle with a developer, Mr. Lawrence LeBlanc, who has been trying to erect two 425-foot industrial-sized turbines on his 81-acre parcel that abuts Kings Factory Road and a section of Route 1, which has been designated as a “National Scenic Byway.” A small group of residents – the Ill Wind group – that lives in the area temporarily halted Mr. LeBlanc’s proposed project, called Whalerock.
Based on their perception that the Charlestown Zoning Board made procedural errors in the application process, the Town Council has also filed suit against the Zoning Board. Both cases have moved through a number of court hearings. In the last hearing before Superior Court Judge Rodgers earlier this month, those of us in attendance felt she may remand the matter to the Zoning Board, which will decide whether to grant Mr. LeBlanc a special use permit to begin construction.
Here is what is at stake if Mr. LeBlanc prevails:
• Adverse health problems and disastrous economic impact on home values. In Falmouth, a health study was conducted by Dr. Gail Harkness, chair of the town’s Board of Health. Of the 47 residents who reported both singular and multiple health-related issues, 85 percent stated sleep deprivation brought about by the noise from the turbines, 53 percent reported stress-related problems, 45 percent reported mental health difficulties, 32 percent reported hearing problems and 25 percent reported cognitive difficulties.
Leading international physicians have documented evidence of health problems among people living near industrial-scale turbines. Because of “Wind Turbine Syndrome,” which is caused by low-frequency noise, one prominent medical expert, Dr. Nina Pierpont of New York, recommends that large turbines be sited at a minimum of 1¼ miles from a home.
A national and highly respected Chicago-based appraisal firm, McCann Appraisal LLC, has identified the negative effects of placing industrial-size turbines in residential areas. Its findings are detailed in a 2011 report prepared for Brewster, Mass., which is a Cape Cod seacoast town like Charlestown. Value loss of 25 percent or more will occur to homes within approximately 2 miles of the turbines, based on their research.
Two turbine structures will not be in harmony with the visual character of the neighborhood, including views and vistas and the historic character of the neighborhood. With exception to communication towers, there is nothing in Brewster (also in Charles town) that is the height of a 50-foot building. The proposed turbines will become the dominant presence well within a mile of any land use. Views and vistas create value for property, and impairment of vistas with non-compatible, immense, spinning machines simply cannot blend into any area or community.
Shadow-flicker and noise emanating from the turbines will have a negative impact on medically fragile children and adults and those with sleep disorders.
Consequently, the Brewster community rejected constructing wind turbines in their town. Similarly, the towns of Harwich, Wellfleet, Dennis, Bourne and Nantucket also voted to oppose the installation of industrial-sized turbines. For more information, visit the following website: www.windwisecapecod.com. and look at their Resources and Our Voices links.
• The overall impact. Aldous Huxley reminds us, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” The Whalerock Project fails to address the aforementioned issues. If Mr. Leblanc is successful in pursuit of his wind turbine initiative, it could well have a destabilizing effect on our tax base. It will imperil the health and property values of many Charlestown residents living within two miles of the project site. It will irreparably harm the beauty and ecology of the area and ruin the pristine landscape all Charlestown residents presently enjoy. There is little or no benefit to Charlestown taxpayers. It does, however, benefit one individual who will profit from tax breaks and federal alternative energy subsidies.
• What can you do? Residents have a civic and personal responsibility to protect themselves from following the same path of health and financial distress besetting Falmouth. Contact both your Town Council and Zoning Board officials to voice your opposition (for their contact information, go to the town website: www.charlestown. org and click on the link Town Boards and Commissions).
If a hearing is scheduled, contact the Town Clerk (401-364-1200) or go the town’s website to learn when it is to occur and plan to attend the meeting and speak to this issue, which is arguably the most important decision our town will live with for generations.
Thus far, a small group of citizens has taken on the burden of paying costly legal fees. Please contact me if you care to help in this battle.
RONALD J. AREGLADO is a resident of Charlestown who is one of the founding members of the Ill Wind group opposed to the construction of industrial-sized turbines in residential neighborhoods.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding