Homeowners near four industrial-sized wind turbines in Kingston are demanding that the town shut down the machines and redo the review of the projects, due to alleged flaws that their attorney alleges invalidated the approval process.
Christopher Senie, an attorney who has handled protests from turbine opponents in Falmouth, Duxbury, Wareham, and Plymouth, is now working to stop the blades from spinning in Kingston.
At issue are three turbines owned by businesswoman Mary O’Donnell and already operating just off Route 3, and a fourth municipal turbine erected near O’Donnell’s site on the town’s former landfill and expected to go online this week.
All four stand over 400 feet from ground to apex and together are capable of producing enough electricity to power about 9,000 homes. The power is being sold to the enegy grid, and Kingston will invest the revenue from its turbine into more energy-saving and renewable-energy projects.
Senie has written to Kingston Building Inspector Paul Armstrong, challenging the Planning Board’s site plan approval process for the wind towers, which was conducted last summer.
Senie said the 11 local families he represents want the turbines shut down and the review process begun again. Under local zoning ordinances, such a demand, which is currently being reviewed by the town’s attorney, is made first to the building inspector. If the request is denied, it would move to the Zoning Board, and if it is again denied, his clients could take action in court.
Homeowners who have hired Senie live in Indian Pond Estates, Copper Beech Drive, and Leland Road. Indian Pond is most affected by O’Donnell’s turbines, while the latter two will feel the impacts of the municipal turbine once it spins.
Indian Pond Estates resident Lisa Obey can see all three of O’Donnell’s turbines from her house and can hear the blades whir, particularly when it is windy. She’s been told the noise will be worse in fall and winter.
“I don’t know what I’m hoping for, whether it’s shutting them down, moving them, or getting rid of them,’’ Obey said of her family’s decision to hire Senie. “I just think it’s important to see what can happen.’’
Senie bases his argument to restart the review process on three points: He contends the Planning Board approved the site plan for the two projects without commissioning an outside review; that both the town and O’Donnell failed to file site-plan applications with the town clerk, as local ordinances require; and that the Planning Board reviewed the turbine applications under a new bylaw approved by Town Meeting, but not yet endorsed by the state attorney general’s office.
“Site-plan review is a pretty important process,’’ Senie said in an interview. “I think the site plan needs to be done again and can be done again, although I don’t know whether it will happen through the building inspector.’’
Mark Beaton, a Kingston selectman and chairman of the town’s Green Energy Committee, is angered by demands of turbine opponents.
“I’m frustrated we have to see this,’’ said Beaton, who argued that the points raised in Senie’s letter, such as predictions of noise and flicker from the Kingston machines, have already been examined.
“They talk about flicker and sub-sounds and ice-throw from the turbines, but there is no science to the claims,’’ Beaton said. “This is based on misinformation and people who have a little money and want to bully the town.’’
Kingston Town Planner Tom Bott believes the abutters’ fears are predominantly financial. “From the conversations I’ve had with people in Indian Pond Estates, it’s the economic impact they are being concerned about,’’ Bott said.
Obey agreed with Bott. “If they can guarantee it won’t affect my property value, that’s fine,’’ she said. “But how can they guarantee that?’’
O’Donnell said she’s driven through neighborhoods abutting her turbines, and in most cases, homeowners with a view of the machines “basically see one blade over the treetops.’’
“I think the wind turbines are elegant,’’ O’Donnell said. “I receive calls all the time and meet people at the supermarket who say how beautiful they are and how excited they are about them.’’
O’Donnell dismissed complaints about noise voiced by abutters. “I have to turn my cellphone off to even hear the turbines when I’m on the property,’’ she said. “I’ve lived on the ocean, and the ambient noise of the waves is greater.’’
O’Donnell predicts the fear that turbines will reduce property values and discourage home sales “will be laid to rest when people who are glad we are reducing our carbon footprint are happy to buy their homes.’’