FAIRHAVEN – Many years ago, John Methia and Peter DeTerra co-coached their sons’ Little League teams.
Neither man says they were particularly close, but they worked well together, spending years compiling batting orders and having fun teaching the kids how to play ball.
Then the turbines came, and the two men say there has been a strain on their relationship ever since.
Methia lives near the turbines and opposes them because he says they keep his sons up at night. DeTerra is the chairman of the Fairhaven Board of Health. In the year that the turbines have been operational, the two have spent many meetings literally on opposite sides of the table, with DeTerra wanting to wait for more information and Methia demanding the turbines be shut down.
“We never were close; we only played ball, but it’s been a strain,” DeTerra said.
The political impacts the two wind turbines have had on the town have long been apparent, with factions like Windwise and Friends of Fairhaven Wind supporting different candidates with different views of the turbines in town elections. Residents on both sides of the issue say there is also a more personal cost to having strong public opinions about the turbines.
“Everything has been divided, even friendships,” Methia said.
To Methia, the nature of the turbine issue – he says they cause health problems for his sons – makes it difficult to stay friends with people who don’t believe the complaints are real.
“When the health and well being of my family is at stake, there is no gray area, no agreeing to disagree,” he said. “You are either with me or against me.”
That point of view has upset some of his neighbors, like Julianne Lawton, who said she has not had any trouble with the turbines. She called Methia’s complaints “manufactured.”
“I’m fairly disgusted with Windwise and John is one of them,” she said, saying she resents the group for “costing the town money.”
Lawton wrote a letter to the editor published in The Standard-Times last month criticizing him for being “one of the most outspoken opponents of the turbines.” Later she called writing the letter “the right thing to do.”
Methia said he had been “taken aback” by the letter because the two had been friends.
“But that’s what this project has done,” he said.
WindWise member Dawn Devlin said her family had had similar experiences. She said her college-age daughter has had a couple of friends from elementary school stop speaking to her because Devlin has been so actively opposed to the turbines.
“The only thing that consoles me is I truly believe people are being harmed (by the turbines,)” she said.
The turbine issue has affected relationships in unexpected ways, too. Karen Isherwood said her friendships with her Teal Circle neighbors became closer once the turbines went up because the residents supported each other through particularly rough nights.
Then one family became so fed up they moved away.
“They don’t go to the meetings anymore because they don’t live here,” Isherwood said. “For 25 years we could count on them for anything.”
For his part, DeTerra said he hopes the Board of Health’s June 9 vote to shut down the turbines overnight will help “heal the town.”
After the June 9 meeting, Methia said DeTerra approached him and then men shook hands.
“The feeling was we hope we can be friends again,” he said.
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