WOOD RIVER JCT. – At a public hearing Wednesday in the auditorium of the Chariho Middle School, the Hopkinton Planning Board heard comments on a proposal to amend the town’s comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance to prohibit wind turbines in all areas of the town.
Hopkinton does not currently have any industrial wind turbines, but the Conservation Commission has supported their installation, on a limited basis, to support the preservation of farmland and other open space.
The amendment was proposed by Town Council member Sylvia Thompson, who asked the Planning Board to provide an advisory opinion on the matter to the council.
Thompson said there was insufficient information on the possible effects of large wind turbines. “There’s just too many unknowns for the town to move forward on this, I believe,” she said. “Let’s not allow any in town until we fully understand all the ramifications.”
Thompson suggested Hopkinton look at the experiences of other towns where turbines have been installed.
“We know that other towns are doing it in Rhode Island and over time, we’re going to learn more,” she said.
Harvey Buford, who chairs the Conservation Commission, said the commission, as well as several environmental organizations, supported wind energy.
“Can anyone here who wants to shut down wind energy give a rationale for why Audubon Society, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists are unequivocal advocates for wind energy on towns like Hopkinton,” he said.
Wind turbines, Buford said, would be financial lifesavers for local farm families.
“What can we do that helps Hopkinton farmers, helps the environment and pays substantial taxes? Wind energy,” he said. “Can you name another cash cow for farmers that pays $60,000 a year, uses about 600 square feet of land and doesn’t require hours that a farmer doesn’t have?”
Several residents, many of whom have also opposed the construction of commercial solar developments in residential zones, expressed their misgivings about the effects, including health impacts, that the turbines might have on people living near them.
Carol Desrosiers said she had read about the noise emitted by the blades.
“During the day, ambient, audible noise is much greater than at night, whereas the turbine noise is greater at night than during the day,” she said. “The result is that rural people notice audible wind turbine noise much more at night than during the day.”
Eric Bibler, founder of Hopkinton Citizens for Responsible Planning, also supported Thompson’s proposed ordinance amendment.
Bibler cited the health effects of noise and flicker from turbine blades. He also disputed Buford’s assertion that scientists had determined that only nine bats per turbine were killed each year.
“There was a wind turbine project that was just recently halted in North Dakota after they determined that thousands of bats were slaughtered,” he said. “So this whole idea – I don’t know where a number like ‘It’ll only kill nine to 15 bats per year’ – I don’t know where that comes from.”
Representing the Hopkinton Land Trust, Mary Gibbons read a letter from a landowner who supports wind energy in town.
“My neighbors benefit from the open space on my property but it falls entirely to me to pay the taxes and manage the woodland,” Gibbons said, reading the letter. “It seems essentially unfair of the town to restrict the few options that I have to generate funds to help with this task.”
The Town Council will consider the amendment once it has received the advisory opinion from the Planning Board.
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