PORTSMOUTH, R.I. – Residents frustrated by the town turbine’s noises and shadows pleaded with the Town Council on Monday to force its owner and operator to mitigate the problems.
Town Council President Keith Hamilton repeatedly advised the aggrieved individuals to deal directly with the company, North Kingstown-based Green Development LLC, and its founder and chairman, Mark DePasquale.
“If you haven’t reached out to (the company), please do so,” Hamilton said. “We have leased out the property and it is currently the responsibility of the developer and the turbine owner to mitigate the issues.”
Some of the residents pushed back, questioning the company’s willingness to address the issues and calling on the council to do more to represent the taxpayers.
“I don’t understand how you can sit there and say, ‘Not our problem, go away,’” resident Denise Wilkey said. “You’re supposed to represent us and respect us, and I don’t feel that at all.”
At a meeting a month ago, when similar concerns were voiced, the council directed the aggrieved residents and DePasquale, who was present, to meet with each other and update the panel on Monday.
DePasaquale did not attend the meeting Monday because he was at an emergency operations center monitoring the wind, Hamilton explained, with the nor’easter forecast to roll in. The town received a written statement from DePasquale that will be posted on the town website, Hamilton said.
“He has several people,” resident John Vegas responded when he spoke at the podium. “I don’t know why someone else wasn’t able to show up.”
Four official complaints related to the turbine have been lodged, according to Hamilton. The complaints center on the noise and flicker generated by the 279-foot-tall turbine standing near Portsmouth High School that started running in August 2016. It replaced a turbine installed by a separate company that broke down in 2012.
The flicker, as shown by one resident’s video at the Feb. 12 meeting, is a stream of repeated, fast-moving shadows cast by the machine’s three blades. The flicker is not an everyday occurrence but can last as long as an hour-and-a-half at a time, resident David Souza previously said.
The council has leverage over Green Development’s actions that it can use to address the residents’ complaints, he added. “You are the landlords so you can’t say you’re not responsible. … Everything falls on the landlord,” he said.
Vegas said he heard a different tone from the council at the meeting Monday than at the Feb. 12 meeting. “You don’t seem to be interested and I’m not sure why,” he said. “It was a different tone at the last meeting. I’m disappointed, I must say, and curious to the silence and change in tone this week with concern about solving the problem.”
Souza and Vegas on Monday said they do not want the turbine dismantled, but mitigation efforts, such as shutting it down when the problems are at their worst.
Councilor Elizabeth Pedro recommended hosting a meeting with the residents and DePasquale in council chambers. Town Administrator Richard Rainer was directed to set up the meeting.
Some residents asked why the second turbine was installed.
In November 2014, the town signed a deal with Wind Energy Development LLC, now Green Development, to take down the turbine that broke down, pay off the remaining $1.45 million of the bond the town used to install the first turbine and put up the new one. The town is buying a portion of the energy generated at a rate of 15.5 cents per kilowatt hour for 25 years.
Noting the town was on the hook for the bond, Hamilton said the agreement with Green Development was “the best option for the entire town of Portsmouth.”
Councilor David Gleason said the town was at that crossroads when it made the agreement with Green Development. “Did I make the right decisions?” he said. “Probably not.”
“I’m really sorry,” added Pedro. “I’m so sorry for voting for this. I really am.”
Despite the meeting with DePasquale in the works, some of the residents expressed skepticism if it will bring an end to the nuisance.
“He’s a businessman,” Wilkey said. “He doesn’t care about us.”
“What if he just says, ‘No, I don’t have to do that.’” added Souza.
Hamilton said he believes DePasquale will be receptive.
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