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Kingston flicker study starting; Residents share opinions on regulations

All five wind turbines in Kingston – the Independence, Mary O’Donnell’s three turbines and the T’s turbine – will be part of a shadow flicker study coordinated by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.

Monday night, the Board of Health informed residents and others at a meeting for discussion of possible new shadow flicker regulations that the study would start this week. A report from the contractor CEC chooses to conduct the study would be completed by June 10.

“The assessment will include a desktop analysis of expected shadow flicker impacts for locations around the wind projects, including number of days per year, total hours per year and minutes per day, and will provide details on when flicker is expected to occur,” wrote CEC project manager Peter McPhee.

The contractor would only visit the site to check site lines, according to McPhee, and the turbines would not have to be shut off. McPhee also announced a delay in the acoustic study with Kingston Wind Independence claiming they can’t begin working with CEC’s consultant until after May 17.

Prospect Court resident Chris Haynes asked what happens if the study results are out of line with existing data residents have been collecting when they experience flicker. He also questioned the effectiveness of a desktop analysis.

The purpose of the study was also called into question. Country Club Way resident Tim Dwyer said the Board of Health is taking the wrong approach in regards to the study. He said the board doesn’t need a study to determine that flicker is a nuisance. He said the purpose of the study should be to enforce Board of Health regulations limiting flicker.

“At least four board members agree that flicker is a nuisance,” he said. “You don’t need a study to craft a regulation for something you know is a nuisance.”

Leland Road resident Doreen Reilly challenged board members’ understanding of what flicker regulations should entail.

“You guys have to do your homework and find out exactly what you’re regulating,” she said.

Board members agreed to start the process of hiring an engineer who has studied flicker and acoustics to analyze the reports of both studies.

Board of Health member Dan Sapir said the board doesn’t need regulations to determine the problem area, while arguing that the board needs an expert in the board’s corner.

“We need somebody on our side of the ledger,” he said. “No matter how you look at it, you need somebody working for the home team.”

Some neighbors upset by the Independence and O’Donnell turbines attended both the Board of Health meeting and Monday night’s Planning Board meeting. At the Planning Board meeting, they expressed frustration with site plan approval for the turbines.

Reilly argued that site plan approval for the Independence was based on incomplete and inaccurate information, so it’s illegally sited.

Planning Board Chairman Tom Bouchard and board member Bob Gosselin said there was never any intent to create a problem for residents. The board agreed to review residents’ concerns, but Gosselin said the information the board received was what was available when the Planning Board approved the site plan in 2010.

“If you had been at the meeting, you wouldn’t have had a problem with it,” Gosselin said.

Tuesday night, Selectman Sandy MacFarlane secured a commitment from the other board members to agree to a meeting with the Board of Health to discuss the turbines but no date was set.