KINGSTON – Neighbors aggrieved by the flicker that invades their home during certain hours from the Independence wind turbine say no one should be subject to flicker in their homes.
They are pressing the Planning Board for a new regulation in the town’s zoning bylaws that would limit flicker to zero hours. They question how the town can enforce any number of flicker hours.
“The only plausible way to enforce it is for it to be zero,” Leland Road resident Sean Reilly said at Monday night’s Planning Board hearing.
Reilly also advocated for the Planning Board to consider establishing setbacks and acoustical requirements for turbines, because the board is already considering changing the zoning bylaw to add a flicker regulation.
Leland Road resident Dan Alves said flicker is more than a nuisance; it’s a clear health hazard. He also pressed for the Planning Board to limit flicker to zero hours. A new flicker study estimates flicker impacts his home 140 hours a year under the worst-case scenario.
“It will give you a headache; it will make you nauseous,” he said.
Selectman Dennis Randall said flicker is clearly a visual impact and might be compared to a searchlight sweeping through a home. He recommended the Planning Board protect the integrity of people’s property. He said turbine operators will be able to meet any standards that are set.
While the Planning Board is considering flicker regulations relative to siting turbines in town, the Board of Health is considering its own flicker regulations based on flicker as a nuisance.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Elaine Fiore had the same question about how flicker can be measured. She also strongly recommended that the two boards talk so both have regulations that allow the same number of flicker hours.
“If you site something at 10 hours, just throwing it out there, and they say it’s a nuisance at 5, you’ve already created a situation that none of us want,” she said.
Fiore also addressed a dispute about whether new regulations on flicker effect from wind turbines would affect the existing turbines. She said town counsel was contacted early this week for a legal opinion on whether new zoning regulations on flicker would apply to the existing turbines.
While Town Planner Tom Bott maintains that zoning changes can’t be applied retroactively, residents upset about the siting of the Independence wind turbine say its owners are legally bound by their own agreement with the town to abide by any new regulations.
The Reillys and others say the town’s Wind Power Purchase Agreement is a standing legal agreement with KWI by which they have already agreed to be bound to any new regulations. Fiore said said she hopes for an answer as soon as possible to validate either position.
Planning Board member Michael Ruprecht said either way, the Planning Board wants to have some regulation in place sooner rather than later. Any zoning change would require a two-thirds majority vote at Town Meeting.
He said it’s not probable that an entity would apply to site a wind turbine in Kingston due to limits on the amount of electricity towns can generate and utilities can buy back from municipalities. However, those state limits could change.
The hearing was continued to 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9.
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