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Wind Wars

The Bournehurst neighborhood objects to 492-foot wind turbine proposed on adjacent bog.

Experts for the proponent used the words "decibels," "logorythmic" and "wind turbine syndrome." The opponents interrupted, saying, "Stick it" and "This is a waste of my f...g time."

The Mann family has owned cranberry bogs off Head of the Bay Road for decades. Current owner Keith Mann proposes to offset the recent downturn in the cranberry market by building wind turbines on his upland. His neighbors on Burnehurst Drive object.

In a public hearing Wednesday night before the Zoning Board of Appeals, Mann's experts spent two hours detailing the sound and health impact of one of turbine closest to the neighborhood. The frustrated neighbors did not always sit quietly.

"I'm a citizen," one man said. "May I speak?"

"Not now," Zoning Board chairman Peter Connor said. "You will have an opportunity to speak after the proponent's persentation."

Three of the neighbors walked out.

When, the persentation complete, Connor announced a recess and said he doubted all public comment could be heard that night, several neighbors shouted at him.

"I'm a taxpayer in this town," one man said.

"As are we all," Connor said.

After 10 p.m., Tom Booth had an opportunity to speak, representing the neighbors. He listed their concerns as possible threats to health and safety, the visual "shadow flicker effect," sound impact, lowered real estate value and the visual impact of a 1,000 meter high turbine.

He spoke after the hearing, too.

"They've been to 11 meetings and heard the same speal every time," Booth said of his neighbors. "For the first time, we had two experts here for a 10 minute presentation. We paid for them to sit through two hours of everything we've already heard."

In the hearing, one of those experts, Maine sound engineer Stephen Ambrose, described the sound of a wind turbine.

"It sounds like sneakers in a dryer when it really gets going," Ambrose said.

Mann's sound engineer, Doug Sheadel, had earlier made an elaborate defense of the sonic effects of wind turbines.

"Most of the time these turbines operate, no one will hear them," Sheadel said.

He placed a sound meter on the table in front of Connor.

"Does this say the conversation in this room is at 60 decibels?" Connor said.

"Yes," Sheadel said. "We expect 53 decibels from the turbine."

He said he had measured the ambient sound near Bournehurst Drive at more than that.

"The wind turbine sound will be equal to the ambient sound most of the time," Sheadel said. "Sometimes, late at night, it will be heard."

Ambrose and fellow sound consultant Robert Rand, also of Maine, said they studied Sheadel's study and disagreed with the findings.

"The question is, what is quiet?" Ambrose said. "It's generally judged as less than 30 decibels. When I'm active, I don't notice that sound. When I want to sleep, I want less than 30 decibels."

"We will be downwind of the turbines," Booth said. "That means more exposure. It's like being in front of a fan or a speaker."

The Planning Board has recommended of three other turbines on Mann property on the other side of Route 25. The Zoning Board approved those turbines. The Planning Board split in its recommedation of the fourth, tallest turbine, closest to the neighbors.

Booth suggested holding off on a decision on the fourth until everyone had experience with the first three.

"If you go ahead with this, you will hear people complaining," Ambrose said. "And they'll say, 'Town, do something.'"

Mann's attorney, Bob Betters, said his client would act before the town had to. He said the particular turbine proposed has a curtailment ability. It will slow itself down if it produces too much sound.

Another of Mann's experts, occupational physician Dr. Robert McCunney, said people may report annoyance with the sound produced by a wind turbine not because it's loud, but because of their attitude toward wind turbines.

"There is no risk of hearing loss or adverse health effects with wind turbines," McCunney said. "So-called wind turbine syndrome is not a recognized diagnosis within the medical community."

But, he said, studies in northern Europe, "where turbines are everywhere," show that six percent of people surveyed report annoyance with nearby turbines. The researchers have linked that annoyance with a general negative attitude toward turbines in those subjects.

"It's very understandable that people are afraid of it," Annette Herbst said. Originally from Germany, she and her husband Jeff now reside off Head of the Bay Road. "I am probably more familiar with it. We need to allow this because it's very, very important to our future."

"Most of the people objecting to this proposal say they're in favor of wind energy, but not in my back yard," Jeff Herbst said. "This is an energy issue. The majority of the people aren't here. We need to make the mature decision in favor of this."

Booth maintained the fourth turbine will have negative effects on his neighborhood. He said trees now buffer the area from noisey bog operations, but the turbine will tower over the trees.

"I understand they want to protect their farm," Booth said leaving the hearing. "I want to protect my little postage stamp of a lot. It's all I have."

The Zoning Board continued the hearing to Wednesday, April 4 at 8 p.m.

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