Town officials have decided to take their time before making a decision regarding the transport and construction of wind turbines on a cranberry farm in Plymouth.
The components of the proposed wind farm would be delivered by approximately three dozen trucks, most of them making their way down Main Street in Buzzards Bay to Belmont Circle and out to Keith Mann’s farm on Head of the Bay Road.
The proponents of the project appeared before the Bourne Board of Selectmen Tuesday night, September 22.
Attorney Jonathan W. Fitch of Barnstable, representing Future Wind Generation LLC, told selectmen that his clients were not seeking a temporary easement from the town, which might require a vote by residents at a Special Town Meeting. Mr. Fitch pointed out that the legal definition of the term easement means a transfer of land ownership. He said that his clients did not want to take ownership of the land, and therefore did not require an easement.
Instead, he said, they were asking the board, in their role as the licensing authority for the town of Bourne, to issue them a permit, or license, to use town roads for delivery of the turbine equipment. He also pointed out the financial impact Future Generation Wind faces with the components being stored in New Bedford while the town of Bourne sorts through the issue. He asked that the board make a decision that night.
The project involves the delivery of components for four wind turbines to Mr. Mann’s cranberry farm off Head of the Bay Road. The route the trucks carrying the turbines would travel would be from New Bedford, through Wareham, along Main Street in Buzzards Bay, around Belmont Circle following the regular direction of traffic, and turning right onto Head of the Bay Road out to Mr. Mann’s farm.
Southern Tier Express has been contracted to transport the components for the wind farm. Michael Mills, Southern Tier’s vice president, said that the only obstacle facing delivery is a yield sign at the right hand turn onto Head of the Bay Road from Belmont Circle.
Mr. Fitch said that the plan involves a total of 36 vehicles. The heaviest load would be the trucks that carry a base for one of the turbines. The base, at 175,000 pounds, is the heaviest component, and the gross weight of the truck carrying the base would be 280,000, he said. The length of the truck, bumper to bumper is 178 feet with a width of roughly 16 feet, he said.
The travel time from New Bedford to the farm was estimated at four hours with the trucks leaving around midnight. Six trucks would be used each night over six nights, with the trucks spaced apart by roughly 20 minutes. Board members expressed concern that the later departing trucks could arrive in the midst of rush hour traffic. Project coordinators assured the board that they could revise their delivery schedule to ensure that the trucks arrive before 5 AM.
Bourne Planning Board chairman Christopher J. Farrell said he was not only concerned about late arriving vehicles, but also the potential damage to trees lining Head of the Bay Road, as well as some drainage issues in the area. He urged the board to consider putting in place monetary mitigation in the event of damage to roads or trees by the delivery trucks.
Project coordinators said they could adjust the transport and arrival schedule so as not to impact early morning commuters. However, Mr. Farrell, as well as Bourne Department of Public Works director George M. Sala, and Lieutenant Richard J. Silvestro of the Bourne Police Department, all questioned the arrival time and its impact to residents traveling early in the morning.
“Our local residents who are trying to get to and from work, our local children who are trying to go to school on school buses, are all going to be impacted by this,” he said.
Selectmen took two votes relative to the project. The first was whether it required a temporary easement or a permit. The board voted 4-1 in favor of a permit, with member Peter J. Meier calling for an easement.
The second vote was whether to issue a permit that night or continue the matter to the board’s next meeting on September 30. The board voted unanimously to continue the case to next week, allowing members to take time to examine the proponents’ plan and take into consideration concerns expressed.
Mr. Fitch also appeared before the Bourne Board of Health Wednesday night, September 23. The question was raised as to whether Bourne had jurisdiction relative to the project, which would actually be located in Plymouth. Mr. Fitch said that his client wanted “to be a good neighbor,” however he contended that Bourne has no jurisdiction across town border lines; thus no authority over the project.
Members of the board of health disagreed saying they had been advised by Bourne town counsel Robert S. Troy that since the effects of the turbines, the shadow flicker for example, would cross the border and affect Bourne residents, the project is technically “in Bourne” and comes under the health board’s jurisdiction.
Wind Energy Conversion System (WECS) regulations drafted by the board of health state that the regulations were drafted “to protect the public from adverse health effects and nuisances that can be associated with WECS.” The regulations also state that the board declares “excessive noise and [shadow] flicker a nuisance.”
Shadow flicker is defined in the town’s regulations as “the effect of the sun being blocked by an object that is in motion, casting a shadow that is intermittent.” The town’s regulations further state that shadow flicker shall not extend beyond the lot lines of the property upon which the WECS is located.
A variance may be obtained to allow shadow flicker to extend beyond the lot lines, but Mr. Fitch said his client did not require a variance because the town had no jurisdiction over the project.
“Can you regulate in any fashion an activity that is in another town? Case law is well established that your jurisdiction ends at your town border,” he said.
Board chairman Kathleen M. Petersen held that the town does have jurisdiction through the set of rules compiled by the board and approved by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.
“These are regulations in town that you do have to comply with,” Ms. Petersen said.
The board agreed to make a request to the Bourne Board of Selectmen to have Mr. Troy contact Mr. Fitch and explain the rationale behind why Bourne has legal authority over a project that is not physically located in Bourne.
Board members also agreed to continue the case to their meeting on Wednesday, October 14.
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