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Scituate

Couple drops wind turbine lawsuit

Two Scituate residents say they won’t pursue their lawsuit against Scituate Board of Health officials until the town has finished a study on its wind turbine.

Mark and Lauren McKeever late last month voluntarily dropped the lawsuit they had brought in mid-December against the board’s three members, following a month of trying to get a judge to shut down the turbine.

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But the judge declined to rule in the McKeevers’ favor, saying that the town was still going through its administrative process and that it was premature for the courts to act.

According to the McKeevers’ attorney, Tayna Trevisan, her clients have put the lawsuit aside for the time being, but could try again.

The lawsuit “was dismissed without prejudice, which means that we can bring it back later if need be after the town issues a final determination,” Trevisan said.

Trevisan rejected the premise the McKeevers’ decision was related to a $20,000 settlement they signed with turbine owners Scituate Wind LLC, which said the family would not oppose the siting of the machine. The family lives within 640 feet of the turbine.

In court hearings, the town’s attorney said the settlement explained why the McKeevers brought a lawsuit against town officials, not the turbine owners.According to Trevisan, the lawsuit has a different focus from the settlement.

“Basically, the agreement [with Scituate Wind] is irrelevant because it deals with the permitting of the turbine. The case the McKeevers have brought to the Board of Health is strictly regarding health and safety,” Trevison said. “It has nothing to do with permitting. Regardless of the contract the town entered into with anyone, the town cannot bargain away its right to protect the safety of the public.”

The decision comes as a relief to town officials, who are conducting a study on the turbine to determine whether the machine is operating within its permit guidelines.

“After the judge determined that the Board of Health was following proper procedures and there was no basis for an injunction, the McKeevers agreed to dismiss their lawsuit,” said Town Administrator Patricia Vinchesi in an e-mail. “We have a duty to insure the turbine is operating properly and continue to believe that residents’ complaints concerning the turbine are being addressed properly by the board.”

After several months of discussion, the Board of Health has decided on the scope of a study, but has yet to pick an engineer to do the job.Trevisan said the McKeevers have suffered sleeplessness, headaches, and other maladies since the turbine was turned on in March 2012.

In the meantime, Trevisan said her clients will continue making their arguments to the board.

“We’re intending to bring to the Board of Health’s attention to a number of studies that have come out since the Department of Environmental Protection’s 2012 study that they have been relying on, which do affirmatively show there are significant health impacts related to siting turbines close to residential areas,” Trevisan said.

Jessica Bartlett can be reached at jessica.may.bartlett@gmail.com.
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