FAIRHAVEN – Residents got some details but not a full picture of an updated turbine mitigation plan during an often-rowdy Board of Health meeting Monday night.
The plan, submitted by turbine owner Friends of Fairhaven Wind, was not released to the public even as the Board of Health discussed it Monday night, leading to confusion and frustration among the more than 40 residents in attendance.
According to comments made by Board of Health Chair Jeanine Lopes, the plan includes a proposal from Fairhaven Wind to pay for software that would automatically turn off one of the town’s two turbines in “adverse weather and wind conditions.”
It is not clear exactly what those adverse conditions are, but mention was made by board member Barbara Acksen that they would be similar to conditions when the Department of Environmental Protection has found the turbines to be in violation of state noise ordinances.
Acksen also mentioned the possibility of turning off one turbine between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m., but it was not clear from the discussion if that would only occur in adverse wind conditions or on a nightly basis.
The board refused to answer questions or take comments about the plan Monday night. Lopes said she could not make the document public because selectmen were simultaneously discussing it in a closed meeting Monday night. That selectmen discussion was justified under Massachusetts open meeting law because it is technically a contract negotiation for that board. The same is not true for the Board of Health, which deals with the plan in terms of how it abates a public nuisance and health concern.
The Standard-Times filed a Massachusetts Public Records Law request with the Board of Health on Friday asking for the mitigation plan. The board has 10 days to respond.
At the beginning of the meeting Monday, Lopes warned those in attendance that she would not tolerate outside commentary.
“This is a board meeting that you are able to attend. It is not open for discussion or comments,” she said. “If anyone throws catcalls or makes rude comments, you will be asked to leave.”
The majority of attendees were members of the pro-turbine Friends of Fairhaven Wind. Eight members of the turbine opposition group WindWise were also present and, despite Lopes’ warning, they frequently vocalized their concerns during the meeting.
At one point, Carolyn Young got into a shouting match with Lopes, telling the chair that, “You refuse to hear how the turbines are disturbing my life so I am going to disturb your meeting.”
Lopes threatened to “call the authorities” to remove Young from the meeting, but that did not happen.
At another point during the discussion, WindWise members called out that the Board of Health should hold a public hearing on residents’ health concerns about the turbines.
To that, Lopes said, that there is “no reason” for a public hearing and “there is nothing new that anyone is going to offer this board that will change that scenario.”
Each time members of WindWise began to speak to the board, they were met with headshaking and shushing by members of Friends of Fairhaven Wind.
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