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Reject huge wind turbine

I’ve always been a fan of Ruth Pacheco and her farm on Old Smithfield Road in North Smithfield. The bees, the herbs, the puppy care … all of it. The entire road is beautiful, a throwback to simpler and quieter times, yet only a stone’s throw from shopping and restaurants and other niceties that make modern life enjoyable.

I understand the need for Mrs. Pacheco to seek out ways to keep her farm financially sound and in her family’s hands for generations to come. But in seeking to place a large wind turbine on her land, she has created a firestorm with neighbors.

My dad once told me “Remember, the rights of your fist ends where the rights of the other guy’s nose begins.” To neighbors, this wind turbine is a giant 462.5-foot fist in the face. Proposed by Green Development and its founder, Mark DePasquale, this turbine would be 32 feet taller than Rhode Island’s tallest building, the so-called Superman building in Providence. That seems pretty big.

People have been talking about this project for years, and signs saying “No Wind Turbine” are along the road. At one time, I counted 27, but there are fewer today. In last week’s story by reporter Lauren Clem, we were introduced to Nicole Valliere, a woman who with her family bought the beautiful 16-acre property and home next to Mrs. Pacheco. It was perfect for her children and ailing father, she told us. Mrs. Pacheco came to meet and welcome her new neighbors after the sale, and told Ms. Valliere of the turbine, no doubt in an earnest effort to win her approval. It didn’t work, and Valliere has joined neighbors in the fight against the turbine she knew nothing about.

As an aside, may I ask: Do real estate agents or homeowners have any obligation to tell unsuspecting buyers that a massive wind turbine is planned next door? Apparently not. Legally, home sellers, with their professional representatives, must sign disclosure forms that inform buyers of all sorts of things that may impact the value of a home. But if a 462.5-foot wind turbine is planned next door, nothing needs to be said? If so, may I say here, “There ought to be a law …”

Right now, however, it seems current laws favor the developers of green (with a small “g”) energy. As I’ve written before, environmentalists across the state are protesting – rightly, in my view – the clear-cutting of trees that absorb carbon only to have them replaced by solar sprawl. We can all pat ourselves on the back for saving the planet, but it’s clear this is ridiculous public policy. Solar belong on rooftops, or large buildings, or brownfields and other damaged lands like former dumps. Clear-cutting woodlands for solar energy makes no sense to me.

Still, that’s what state policy rewards today with our taxes – fairly aggressive and rampant development of green energy just to make a political point.

I have read enough about the light “flicker” of spinning blades and the noise levels of large turbines. While Green Development has maps that show flicker will not be a problem for neighbors, there isn’t much besides promises that can be made regarding noise. One Portsmouth woman, Denise Wilkey, complains bitterly in our comments last week of the noise and changes to her quality of life from a Green Development turbine 1,100 feet from her home. She is not alone. With apologies to Ruth Pacheco and her family, I would urge the North Smithfield Zoning Board to turn this plan down. My bottom line: Huge turbines don’t belong anywhere near people. The neighbors’ noses – and ears – have rights, too.

Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze.