FOSTER – Wind turbines appear headed for a townwide ban in Foster after the Planning Board voted 5-1 to change the green energy ordinance to no longer allow the alternate energy sources in town last Wednesday.
The change in the ordinance will go before the Town Council for final approval and public discussion, said Planning Board Chairman Anthony Renzi.
Members of the board, including Renzi, Helen Hardy, Warren Ducharme, Hillary Downes-Fortune and George Sackal voted to prohibit the turbines, while Michael Carpenter voted against the ban.
Assistant Solicitor Joanna Achilles warned that a complete ban may be too restrictive and leave the town open to possible lawsuits from residents wishing to pursue their right to do what they wish with their land. If a person wins a lawsuit over a wind turbine in Foster, she said, it will leave Foster open for whatever a developer wants.
“It’s a very slippery slope, a dangerous one because it takes it completely out of your hands,” Achilles said.
Sackal said it is not in the town’s best interest to open the door for trouble now with the assumption that one day the town might be sued. He said he believes the state is moving more toward off-shore wind turbines, and believes that by the time the town is sued, the state may have worked out the issue on its own.
“Rhode Island says it’s up to the municipalities, up to the towns,” Sackal said.
Sackal provided research, documentation, testimonies and written statements against wind turbines. He said an all-out ban is the best way to go, and the town can deal with potential litigation as it comes.
“Once you let these things up, you have no control over what happens,” he said.
Sackal said a ban is the best way to keep the peace in town, adding that other green energy sources, such as solar panels and nuclear power, will still be allowed.
Portsmouth residents at the April 7 meeting spoke about their experiences, complaining about constant noise disturbances, vibrations, and loss in home values from turbines in their neighborhood.
Jayme Souza said her experience with the large wind turbine near Portsmouth High School was one of broken promises that have significantly decreased the quality of life for her family. They live 800 feet from a 364-foot, 1.5-megawatt turbine.
“I can’t read a book in peace and quiet in the house or on the patio. I moved my bedroom. I have anxiety attacks, breakdowns. I take sleeping pills to go to sleep at night from it. It’s a constant sound,” Souza said.
She said even when quiet, the vibrations from the wind turbine keep her up at night. During windy days, Souza says the turbines create a loud roaring sound she says far exceeds the town’s noise ordinance.
Jayme and David Souza also complained about the shadow flicker caused by the rotating propellers of the wind turbines during sunny days that “is worse than a strobe light.” With the massive turbines, such as the one by their home, David said the flicker can reach as far as seven miles.
“I would implore you to really research this before you allow this in your home. This does not belong in a residential neighborhood,” Jayme said.
After living in Portsmouth for more than 30 years, the Souzas opted to sell, but due to the proximity of the turbine, they said they found the house had lost much of its value, and they were unable to attract a buyer.
Portsmouth resident Denise Wilkie said the roar of the turbine on windy days sounds like a large plane coming in close. She said the turbine destroyed her neighborhood. Despite multiple noise complaints, the turbine is not shut down during windy days or during peak flicker, as promised by the developer, said Wilkie.
The problem is with the money involved, said Sackal. Running the turbine during windy days generates more money than paying for a lawsuit, he said.
“That’s the business decision they’re making,” he said.
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