Board of Health members can’t agree on turbine compromise; Fairhaven Wind supporters, opponent clash after meeting
FAIRHAVEN – Board of Health members came out of a one-hour executive session Tuesday announcing they couldn’t agree on a proposal from the wind turbine developer.
Later on Tuesday, Fairhaven Wind LLC issued a press statement saying it was defying the Board of Health’s order to turn the turbines off at night because it rejected the developer’s proposal.
The Board of Health had called the emergency meeting Tuesday to respond to the developer’s proposal.
After an hour meeting in executive session, Chairman Peter DeTerra said they discussed “three different directions we’re going in” and, “We have not come to a concession at the present time.”
He added, “Fairhaven Wind made a proposal. We’re at an impasse basically with the proposal.”
Mr. DeTerra wouldn’t say what Fairhaven Wind’s proposal was or what issues it addressed.
In June, the Board of Health voted 2-1 to force the turbines to be shut down from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. The board also sent developer Fairhaven Wind LLC an order of conditions.
Questions were raised Tuesday about why the Board of Health couldn’t discuss the proposal openly and if it violated the open meeting law to go into executive session.
Asked how the proposal was covered under the open meeting law, Mr. DeTerra said because of “potential litigation.” He said the board would be teleconferencing with Town Counsel Thomas Crotty.
After the board reconvened and announced the impasse, Mr. DeTerra and health board member Jeannine Lopes left without answering questions.
Ms. Lopes is a supporter of the turbines. She has joined forces with a new group, Friends of Fairhaven Wind. She was the lone vote not to shut the turbines down at the June meeting.
The only board member who stayed behind Tuesday was Barbara Acksen, who was immediately barraged with questions. The questions came from the press, Friends of Fairhaven Wind and Windwise. The two groups had waited for an hour while the board met in executive session.
Ms. Acksen said three different motions were made in executive session and, “We didn’t have any seconds.” She said they all agreed not to discuss the proposed options in public.
Asked why the health board had called an emergency meeting, which was not taped for public access television, Ms. Acksen said they were “asked to respond rapidly” to a proposal from the wind developer.
Daniel Freitas, who founded Friends of Fairhaven Wind, asked if the standstill meant the dispute would head to court. Ms. Acksen said there is “always a possibility to go to court.”
Mr. Freitas has expressed concerns about the cost of litigation and the potential loss of revenue to the town if the turbines are shut off at night. He said he wants the turbines to be brought into compliance with state noise regulations, but to be turned back on full time as soon as they comply.
The state has a limit of 10 decibels for how much sound levels may be increased in a given area. The turbines exceeded the limit in five tests conducted by the state Department of Environmental Protection last fall and earlier this year.
Mr. Freitas accused Ms. Acksen, who was active in Windwise before being elected to the health board, of not caring about the whole town. In response, Ms. Acksen, a practicing psychologist, said she has cared about public health in more than 30 years as a health care professional.
Ms. Acksen said the Board of Health was responding to complaints from more than 50 households about sleeplessness and health problems related to the wind turbines.
The two activist groups both have strong feelings so perhaps it wasn’t surprising that heated words were exchanged between Kenneth Pottel of Windwise and Mr. Freitas after the formal part of the meeting.
Mr. Pottel accused Mr. Freitas of not caring about people who are suffering from the wind turbines.
“Your position is indefensible,” he told Mr. Freitas. “You don’t care about people.”
“I care about people, too,” Mr. Freitas said, “but I care about the town as a whole.”
Mr. Freitas accused Mr. Pottel of not caring about people when he pushed for the bike path years ago. He said Windwise started out focusing on the birds that might be killed by wind turbines. He said they only later brought up health issues when birds weren’t killed.
“People just didn’t want to look at them,” Mr. Freitas said of the early opposition.
Mr. Freitas accused the press of not reporting on people who support the wind turbines.
Linda Therrien, also of the Friends group, said she lives 400 feet from the turbines. “They don’t affect me whatsoever,” she said. Ms. Therrien added that she hears them “once in awhile,” but when that happens, she turns on the radio. She said she has no problem sleeping.
Diane Hahn, also with Friends, said, “I just believe in wind energy.” Ms. Hahn, who lives behind the high school, said she supports them for the green energy they produce and for the income they generate for the town.
“Any help we can get with our budget is a good thing,” she said.
Ms. Acksen was also asked on what basis the Board of Health had gone into executive session. “I feel just as frustrated as you do about that,” she said.
She said she thought the reason was so the parties could “discuss different ideas.” She said they had talked with the town counsel by phone while in executive session.
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