SCITUATE – Nine years after Scituate residents started filing complaints about the wind turbine on Driftway, and one neighbor filed a lawsuit to compel the board of health to declare it a nuisance, the board could take it up again.
Board Chairman Douglas Whyte said he was worried he would be “harassed” if the board of health decided to stop the turbine because it would cost the town.
The turbine sits 650 feet from the nearest home and has been a source of complaints from neighbors since it started operating in March 2012.
Whyte allotted 15 minutes to neighbor Ellen Kasper to address the board on Monday night.
Kasper and neighbor David Dardi said they wanted the board of health to investigate the turbine, declare it a nuisance and stop it from turning.
The board of selectmen voted to keep the turbine, owned by a private company on land leased by the town, from running at night from May 15 to Oct. 15.
Whyte said he knew some surveys had been done through the board of health but he did not know specifics or what the results were, and said one survey was stymied by residents who did not allow surveyors on their property. Dardi and Kasper refuted Whyte’s claim.
Whyte said it appeared the residents were asking him to immediately order the turbine to permanently stop turning.
“I don’t think I’m comfortable to make a decision that a town goes over, and listen to me and me start to get harassed on things,” he said.
Kasper said they just wanted the board to investigate their complaints, but Whyte said he was worried about town blowback.
“There are other people in the town. I’m going to get circled back, ‘Why did you do that? Now we have to pay $40,000 in electricity.’ I’m just saying,” Whyte said.
Member Karen Conley also suggested that the board of health meet “offline” to discuss what to do, a potential violation of the state Open Meeting Law.
Whyte said he would talk to the other board members and get an answer to Kasper on what they would do.
“You’re asking me to go in cold turkey, let’s shut it down tonight, and end it. That’s, I’m not, I don’t have that power,” Whyte said.
Any communications about ongoing issues between any of the three board of health members that is not in a public meeting would likely be a violation of the Open Meeting Law. Two members of a three-member committee constitutes a quorum.
Neighbor Mark McKeever, who lives 650 feet from the turbine and says he suffers from the effects of noise and from flicker, filed a lawsuit in 2012 to compel the board of health to declare the turbine a nuisance. A judge denied his request for a temporary restraining order.
An article in Developments in Municipal Law published after the decision said that the judge who denied the restraining order in 2012 found that the health issues neighbors say are caused by the turbine was an “open issue” still pending before the board.
Previous Scituate health board members have claimed the turbines should only be shut down if they violate state laws on noise or flicker. That’s in contrast with the Plymouth Board of Health, which did not rely on studies to declare the four turbines along Route 25 to be a nuisance.
State law says boards of health must examine nuisances that cause sicknesses, regardless of whether the offending structure also violates noise or flicker laws.
Although the health issues caused by the turbine was an “open issue” in front of the board of health in 2012, it is not clear what has happened since then. Board of health Director Andrew Scheele said he was not with the department in 2012 and did not know if there was a file on the turbine. Whyte asked the neighbors to send a list of who is affected and their addresses.
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