COHASSET – Plans for a controversial wind turbine on Turkey Hill could soon move forward after the state appeals court upheld a land court ruling that the town’s planning board acted appropriately when it approved the project.
The state appeals court on Wednesday upheld a Boston Land Court judge’s ruling against neighbors and a nearby skilled-nursing home who challenged the project’s legality.
The neighbors sued in March 2011 alleging that the planning board failed to acknowledge their concerns and violated the town’s bylaws when it granted special permits to the Trustees of Reservations, a statewide conservation group that oversees much of Turkey Hill and would operate the turbine.
According to the lawsuit, the 410-foot-tall Turkey Hill turbine would be erected in the northwest corner of Cohasset, in the 314-acre Whitney Thayer Woods, and would be within 1,000 feet of the Golden Living skilled-nursing home and homes on the Hingham side of the border.
Jim Younger, the director of structural resources and technology at the Trustees of Reservations said in a statement Wednesday that the group is “very pleased” with the court’s ruling and grateful for the widespread support for the project.
“At this time, we are still very interested in moving forward with the project and will be reassessing our options following the lengthy delays to the project. We will keep the community informed as we complete this review,” he said.
Damon Seligson, an attorney for Golden Living, could not be reached for comment.
While the lawsuit addressed a host of concerns – including the risk of collapse, and noise related to construction – it focused on the “flickering shadows” that the 150-foot blades would cast on nearby properties.
A land court judge in 2012 upheld the board’s approval, determining that the permit’s special conditions adequately address safety concerns and follow zoning bylaws.
For example, the permit requires that the organization monitor flickering and make sure that it doesn’t exceed 30 minutes per day or 300 hours per year.
Golden Living claimed that the trustees failed to prove the turbine wouldn’t result in excessive flicker, but the appeals court agreed that the conditions of the permit are sufficient.
“The generally accepted industry practice limits shadow flicker to no more than thirty hours per year,” the ruling states, noting that there are no state or federal regulations for shadow flicker.
The turbine was the first project approved under Cohasset’s wind-energy conversion facility bylaw, which town meeting approved in 2008. The planning board rejected an earlier proposal for two turbines in Cohasset Heights off Route 3A.
Golden Living in the appeal also said the land court judge “abused his discretion” by excluding their expert witnesses, which were identified three months after discovery closed.
The appeals court determined the judge “was entitled to determine that allowing the experts to testify after Golden Living’s late disclosure would have prejudiced the defendants or caused delay of the trial.”
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