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Turbines complicate sales of abutting homes

FAIRHAVEN – When Peter Goben, 52, first met his wife Christine, he thought it was fate that they both had grown up in New Bedford but dreamed of living in Fairhaven. Together they built a house in town, raised five children there, and never thought they’d leave, Goben said, until the turbines came.

Goben’s Teal Circle home is located just 1,200 feet from Fairhaven’s two wind turbines at the wastewater treatment plant. He lives across the street from a home where the state conducted its noise testing of the turbines and found a violation.

Goben said he believes in the need for renewable energy, and was worried about noise but willing to give it a try when the town announced it was building two so close to his backyard.

Now, after a year of sleeping on the living room couch because the turbines are too loud in his bedroom, Goben is leaving Teal Circle and moving back across the harbor.

“The kids are upset because this is their home, but they don’t live here anymore,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to stay here when I can only use half my house.”

Goben is not the only Fairhaven resident who, after months of complaining about the turbine noise with no relief, is looking to move.

Justin Downey has lived on Timothy Street his entire life, in a home built by his great grandparents. He said his fiancée and their three children moved to Martha’s Vineyard to be with her parents six months ago because the turbines were keeping their 8-year-old son up at night and affecting his schoolwork.

Downey stayed behind until he can find a job on the island and sell his home.

“I used to see my kids all the time; now it’s just when I can get on the ferry,” he said. “It’s sad, but going back and forth all the time is too expensive.”

Downey said he tried selling his home and put it on the market for what he considered to be a low asking price of $209,000.

After a few months of “watching buyers come by, look at the turbines and drive away,” Downey took it off the market and said he is now hoping to find someone to rent it.

Realtor Susan Whitehead said she has been trying to sell a property on Weeden Road for two years. That property was put on the market for reasons unrelated to the turbines, but Whitehead said buyers ask about the machines, which are visible across Little Bay, “100 percent of the time.”

“They ask about the noise, they ask about the flicker, and then they don’t put in an offer,” she said.

Because of this, the asking price of the home has dropped from $389,000 to $244,900, Whitehead said.

Trying to sell a home near wind turbines is something Falmouth real estate agent Margaret Gifford said is not easy. There, residents have been battling to shut the turbines off for the past two years, and Gifford said agents swap stories of houses languishing on the market for years at a time, being passed around from broker to broker.

“The houses near the turbines are not ones that sell quickly,” she said.

Real estate agents are required to inform buyers of anything about a house that might depreciate its value. In the case of turbines, Gifford said they “disclose themselves” but she does caution buyers to make sure they see homes when the turbines are spinning.

Patricia Favulli, acting director of the Falmouth Assessor’s Office, said she has not seen evidence that home values have been affected by the turbines and that houses near the Falmouth turbines have been sold “close to or more than” the assessed value.

On Teal Circle in Fairhaven, Goben considers himself lucky that his home was on the market for just two weeks before an offer came in, something he attributes to the newly built Wood Elementary School nearby. He expects the sale to close by the end of the month at a price 7 percent below what he asked. Since his house went on the market, Goben said some of his neighbors, who are also affected by noise from the turbines, have accused him of “abandoning” their cause.

“But I did my part. I voted, I went to meetings. Nothing is changing here,” he said. “The only thing left to do was go.”