With four wind turbines peeking over the horizon along Route 3 in Kingston and seven more lined up for construction in Plymouth, a group of residents has submitted a petition for a Fall Town Meeting article that would set a two-year moratorium on more permits, and the group is getting support from many people, who say they support “green energy” from across the region.
The framed image of Plymouth Bay lined with offshore turbines located in the Mayflower Meeting Room at Town Hall, as well as the goal of the beginnings of energy independence by 2020, are facing a backlash of opposition.
The Planning Board began its review of the article Monday, as dozens of people, including residents from neighboring towns, spoke against zoning turbines in residential areas and other locations in town that would be considered not only an eyesore, but also a detriment to public health.
Kingston’s municipally owned turbine located on the town’s capped landfill is undergoing a noise study by the state, after neighbors began complaining that the whirring blades are causing health problems ranging from ringing ears and chronic headaches to vertigo and sleep disturbance.
The petition’s author, Kerry Kearney, said he isn’t against wind energy. “I just don’t think they should be built so close to residents,” he told The Boston Globe Monday.
Plymouth was one of the first communities in the state to enact a wind-energy bylaw, in 2005. The town’s Energy Committee chairman, John Corcoran, said the bylaw was originally drafted to allow construction of a municipal wind turbine near the waste-water treatment plant to generate a little income for Plymouth.
“It was going in an area that everybody could accept,” Corcoran said. The turbine was never built, but the bylaw, following a review by the state, was expanded to allow for wind projects on private property in addition to those on municipal land.
Since the bylaw’s enactment, the Zoning Board of Appeals has approved special permits for turbines in four locations: on bogs off Head of the Bay Road; near Hedges Pond Road; near Walmart at Colony Place; and the Balboni commercial-industrial property off Camelot Drive.
No turbines have been completed, but the Balboni tower is under construction.
Kearney said the biggest flaw is the local bylaw’s distance requirement, which allows a turbine to be no closer than its full height, from the ground to blade tip, from a neighboring property line.
“There are lots of examples of where there are turbines three tower heights away from residents, and people are still struggling with health problems,” Kearney said.
Turbine opponents face strong support for turbines from Senate President Therese Murray, who said last December that she would not support a moratorium on wind turbines in Massachusetts because all options need to be considered to satisfy the state’s future energy needs, according to The Berkshire Eagle.
"There are places where you can put them where they are not harmful to people," Murray said, while answering questions at a Berkshire Chamber of Commerce function at the Country Club of Pittsfield.
As examples, the Plymouth Democrat referred to two projects in her home district: A windmill going up on a landfill in Kingston and a similar facility that supplies power for dormitories at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Bourne.
"You can’t just cut everything out of the mix," Murray said. "Everything has to be done correctly and they have to be placed in the right place….
"I think wind power has to be part of the solution for our energy fixes," Murray said, "but I don’t believe losing local control is the way to go. So I would have to support my towns that don’t support the siting bill."
However, in a letter to the Plymouth ZOning Board of Appeals in February, Murray said, "It is my strong belief that Industrial size wind turbines do not belong in residential neighborhoods.
"Wind turbines have been a part of the renewable energy conversation in the Commonwealth for some time now and I support wind energy as it has the potential to save cities and towns thousands of dollars and reduce the negative environmental impacts to our Earth. However, we must ensure that municipalities can move forward with turbine projects while preserving the health and well-being of residents. No one should be subject to unnecessary discomfort as a result of any turbine and we need to site these projects responsibly."
Petition articles with sufficient signatures are automatically placed on the Town Meeting warrant, but are reviewed by the town’s attorneys. Based on the legal review, Town Manager Melissa Arrighi said, some sections of the moratorium proposal may need adjustment for Town Meeting to act on it.
For instance, she said, the proposed bylaw would stop building permits from being issued for approved turbines during the moratorium. Those projects, however, would be grandfathered, and could therefore move forward with construction after the moratorium, Arrighi said.
What are your thoughts on wind turbines? Should there be a moratorium on new projects? Should the town continue to issue new permits? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.