KINGSTON – After more than a year, the Board of Health wants to revisit a shadow flicker regulation for Kingston wind turbines.
At its last meeting the board scheduled a public hearing for 6 p.m. Monday, May 16, to start the process over again and not wait until ongoing litigation between the town and Independence wind turbine owner Kingston Wind Independence is settled.
Residents who attended that meeting made their opinions clear.
Prospect Street resident Joyce Gerraughty said the board needs to take action to stop flicker from undervaluing her home.
“You’re the Board of Health,” she said. “You have the authority.”
She said she’s new to town and cannot believe the strength with which the flicker affects her home.
“There’s no way to get rid of it,” she said. “You can put up wooden shades and it comes right through.”
Leland Road resident Sean Reilly, who has challenged the board for four years to address flicker, said the board doesn’t have to wait for a regulation to take action. He said it’s unacceptable that consideration of a proposed regulation has been tabled for more than a year.
“At this point I’m reduced to begging the board for help,” he said.
Board of Health Chairman Bill Watson said he believes that the amount of flicker affecting households exceeds what is appropriate and wants to define excessive by putting a number to it. He said he doesn’t want to wait until the lawsuit is litigated to get started.
“That would give us something to work with to start,” he said.
Watson said the town has nothing on the books in regards to flicker other than zoning regulations that say it can’t be excessive. The zoning, however, does not specify what is considered excessive. The state also does not have a flicker regulation.
Watson also noted that a vote taken at Town Meeting in April 2014 to limit shadow flicker from future wind turbines at zero hours’ impact on neighbors and other neighboring uses was reversed at the reconvened Town Meeting that June.
Duxbury resident Joanne Levesque said an order of abatement rather than a regulation would be the better approach. She recommended that the board contact the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards, of which Kingston is a member, for an opinion on how to address shadow flicker.
The Board of Health tabled a decision on whether to adopt a flicker regulation in November 2014 by a 3-2 vote following a public hearing.
At that meeting, opponents of a regulation argued that there’s no proof flicker causes adverse health impacts.
Board members had cited the lack of a final, revised flicker study as one reason to delay a decision. A flicker study, the results of which were released in June 2013, was deemed to be incomplete, according to Town Counsel Jay Talerman.
Residents affected by flicker had argued that the results of the first study adequately prove their point about flicker.
Talerman had said he wrote the proposed regulation with the goal of making it solid enough to survive scrutiny or a challenge by a turbine owner. The regulation would have applied to both current and future Kingston turbine owners through a special permit-type process that would have kicked in within 60 days.
The existing turbine owners would have had to prove to the Board of Health that the amount of flicker from their turbines did not exceed whatever acceptable limits the board decided on. Zero hours and 30 hours of flicker a day were both proposed as a limit.
Talerman has said the Board of Health has jurisdiction when there may be an adverse health risk or a nuisance that affects the health of residents.