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With board’s decision, turbine negotiations could be over in Fairhaven

FAIRHAVEN – The Board of Health’s decision to allow Fairhaven’s wind turbines to spin overnight could have actually eliminated the need for contract negotiations, according to Selectman Geoffrey Haworth.

At its meeting Tuesday, the Board of Health was originally going to accept an interim mitigation plan from Fairhaven Wind LLC to implement while contract negotiations continue. But the actual motion approved by the board in a 2-1 vote amends the June 17 abatement order that found the turbines in violation and shut the turbines down overnight.

A new version of the abatement order sent to Fairhaven Wind Wednesday does note that violations to the state’s noise regulations had been found. But it also determines that the developer’s plan to run both turbines continually except in certain weather conditions is “sufficient to abate the nuisance.”

Haworth said he interprets the Board of Health’s action to mean there is no current violation of the town’s contract with Fairhaven Wind, which prohibits the turbines from violating state noise regulations.

“If the Board of Health says there is no violation, then there is no breach of contract, so I don’t see what we could renegotiate,” he said.

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Charlie Murphy, the designated turbine contract negotiator on the board, did not respond to requests for comment. He is on vacation out of state.

Haworth said the situation “would have been different” if the Board of Health had accepted the mitigation plan as “temporary.”

“Somebody was either very crafty in writing this motion or they made a mistake and missed what they were doing,” he said.

All three members of the Board of Health, including Jeannine Lopes, who made the motion Tuesday night, did not respond to three requests each for comment.

Turbine developer Gordon Deane said he was happy about the board’s decision, saying “Our mantra has always been to mitigate, not litigate.” But, he said, he was not celebrating an end to contract negotiations just yet, and noted that under the plan accepted by the Board of Health, Fairhaven Wind still has to study how changing the angle of the turbine blades affects the noise they produce.

He also noted that selectmen could decide to continue negotiations to “deal with the complaints” made about the turbines. “At this point it’s a political question,” he said. “But it never has been, from our standpoint, a compliance question.”

Turbine opponent and Windwise member Ken Pottel said his group was “very disappointed” with the Board of Health’s ruling. He noted that the board came out of its most recent July 23 meeting split three ways and he said it was suspicious that the board came to a conclusion Tuesday night without discussing the mitigation plan at all.

“We’ve become quite cynical,” he said. “It just seems to us that things aren’t being that open and that this all was planned ahead of time.”