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Scituate

Wind turbine prevails in narrow vote

At Scituate’s Annual Town Meeting, Mark McKeever (arms crossed) waits to speak about the town’s wind turbine.

Jessica Bartlett for The Boston Globe

At Scituate’s Annual Town Meeting, Mark McKeever (arms crossed) waits to speak about the town’s wind turbine.

Scituate’s wind turbine won a narrow vote of confidence last week, during a grueling Annual Town Meeting that approved a local meals tax and a one-year moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries.

After more than an hour of discussion Wednesday, residents voted 132 to 118 against a nonbinding proposal to revoke the operating permit for the $6 million turbine on the Driftway.

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The debate echoed the comments made in recent months, as many residents offered impassioned pleas to remove what they described as a nuisance that has harmed their health.

“Since it started operating, we have been continually sick,” said Mark McKeever, who lives about 640 feet from the 400-foot-tall machine. “We had no idea how massive the turbine would be next to our home.”

Town officials encouraged residents to be patient.

“This is about health. We are committed to being sure the windmill is being operated in a safe manner,” said Selectman Rick Murray. “. . . Not only are we paying attention to the issue, we’re doing everything we can in a measured, proportional, and well-regarded fashion to see if there is a problem and what to do about it.”

Murray outlined the town’s pending acoustical study, and said the town is looking into engaging in a shadow-flicker study with the town of Kingston and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Some residents also voiced support for the turbine, which generates about half of the electricity for Scituate’s municipal and school buildings.

“I see a fraction of Scituate,” Lisa Bertola, an Elm Street resident, said of the turbine’s critics. “And I don’t think it’s well representative about how we feel about this issue.”

Bertola said local children are excited about clean energy, and many residents are enthusiastic about going green. She urged selectmen not to overreact to the residents’ concerns.

Tom Thompson, a spokesman for the group opposing the turbine, said he was not disheartened by the vote.

“I’m very encouraged. If not for the members of the Advisory Committee, members of selectmen and [their] friends voting against us, we would have carried the day,” Thompson said. “. . . We’ll continue to follow due process. We knew this was a nonbinding resolution, but I think this sends a message to the town.”

On the first night of Town Meeting Tuesday, residents also engaged in a vigorous debate over the local meals tax, expected to generate $200,000 a year.

The proposal, which imposes a 0.75 percent tax on all restaurant meals in Scituate, closed out a four-hour session with a vote of 228 to 138 approving the tax.

“It’s not just us that buys the meals, it’s [people from out of town],” said Michele Dorsey, a Kenneth Road resident. “I think it makes sense to do this. We may be well-run, but we don’t have enough money to do the things we need to do. . . . If you have $100 to throw at a meal, you have 75 cents you can throw at the town of Scituate.”

Others said yet another tax wouldn’t make sense, especially when the need wasn’t dire.

“I think this is a slap in the face to the taxpayers of Scituate,” said Michael Hayes, a member of the School Committee. “Everybody in this room has had their taxes increased this year by the federal government. . . .

“If we need it in the future, if times get tough, I’d be in favor of raising money. But I don’t think this is the time to do it,” he said.

There were 29 articles on the Town Meeting warrant. Other actions included:

Accepting a one-year medical marijuana moratorium.

Rejecting an easement taking at the intersection of First Parish Road and Country Way, which could have led to the creation of a roundabout. Many residents were upset that the popular Ronnie Shone General Store had not been contacted in the initial stages of the project.

Accepted a 12-month demolition delay for homes found to be historical.

Postponed action on an article seeking $300,000 for sea walls.

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