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Bourne health board declares Plymouth turbines a nuisance

After years of hearing complaints of noise, headaches and sleep deprivation, the Bourne Board of Health declared Wednesday that the four wind turbines across the town border in Plymouth are negatively affecting public health.

“The avenues in front of this board are pretty exhausted,” said Kathleen Peterson, chairwoman of the Board of Health. “We can’t stop their license.”

The board will communicate to the Plymouth Board of Health its determination that the turbines are a nuisance to the residents of Bourne and interfering with the health and enjoyment of life and property, per the town’s nuisance law. A letter also will be sent to the Plymouth Planning Board, Board of Selectmen and Zoning Board of Appeals, which is responsible for licensing of the turbines.

In addition, the Bourne board will request that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection assist Plymouth and Bourne moving forward.

“At the very least, they are going to have to address to us what they are going to do to start to mitigate this,” Peterson said.

A Superior Court judge ruled that the turbines are outside Bourne’s jurisdiction, and officials have no authority to regulate their construction.

In that finding, however, the judge recognized a health board’s broad powers to regulate and prevent nuisances that affect the public, noting that it remained to be seen whether the operation of the turbines would have a negative affect on the health of Bourne residents, opening the door for the town’s health board to take legal action.

The Buzzards Bay Action Committee, a nonprofit group dedicated to preserve and protect Buzzards Bay, has collected approximately 350 complaints from residents in the area.

Complaints range from shadow flicker to nausea and vertigo dating back to December 2016, after the wind turbines were installed.

Members of the action committee said they believe the wind turbines are breaking both noise bylaws of the state and the town of Bourne.

But, Peterson said, the board has to begin by accepting the complaints of neighbors in town and declaring the turbines a nuisance.

“It’s a long road,” she told residents during Wednesday’s meeting. “We knew it was going to be a long road when you came to us.”

“Persistence pays,” said abutter Ian Davies after the meeting.

“To me, this is a good first step and it will put the ball in the court of the regulating authorities,” said Plymouth resident Larry McGrath. “It is an obvious nuisance that is being ignored by the town of Plymouth and MassDEP. The town of Bourne is bringing light to the two regulating jurisdictions now.”

Bourne resident Karen Gibides said the Board of Health meeting rooms used to be full of residents frustrated by the turbines. But now, she said, they are selling their homes instead.

“We are tired,” Gibides said. “I’m tired.”