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Fairhaven Board of Health turns turbines off overnight

FAIRHAVEN – The Board of Health voted unanimously Monday to shut down the town’s two wind turbines between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., effective immediately.

The vote was made at a joint meeting of the boards of health and selectmen in a packed banquet room. After the three board members approved the motion to shut down the turbines at night – a motion made by Chairman Peter DeTerra – the roughly 30-person audience erupted in applause.

“It’s time to let this town heal,” DeTerra said.

At the meeting, selectmen also voted to put the turbines’ developers on 30 days’ notice because state testing revealed the turbines not only violated state noise regulations but also violated the contract between developers and selectmen. Under that contract, noise from the turbines cannot exceed 60 decibels at the nearest property. Testing on Mill Road in August revealed the turbine noise exceeded that number.

“You knew about this months ago and I have to say I feel a little offended that our town is in turmoil and you sat back and didn’t tell us until we decided to act,” Selectman Geoffrey Haworth told developers Gordon Deane and Sumul Shah, who were also at the meeting.

Shah said Fairhaven Wind will “continue to work closely with the town of Fairhaven” and hoped the two sides could avoid litigation.

After the votes, selectmen went into executive session with the developers to further discuss contract renegotiations.

To date, the Board of Health has received 486 complaints about the turbines from 56 households. DeTerra said the complaints include reports of headaches and sleepless nights.

Selectman Charlie Murphy had called for the meeting between the two boards when he became chairman in early April. The meeting was delayed due to a recount in the Board of Health election that gave DeTerra his seat by just one vote. That recount is currently being challenged in Superior Court, which could rule as early as this week on whether or not there should be a new election for that office.

Murphy said Monday he hoped the vote ensured “everyone in this town has a good night’s sleep.”

“We want to keep Fairhaven united and not divided,” he said. “Our neighbors should not be test subjects anymore.”

Fairhaven turbines opponent Louise Barteau summed up the sentiments of turbine neighbors with a single word: “Yay.”

“Honestly, I’m really proud of our boards today,” she said.