Bournedale Turbine Review Begins Anew
By: Diana T. Barth
Only about 45 people, some of them Cape Cod Commission staff members, assembled at the Bourne High School auditorium Tuesday night as a commission subcommittee began, anew, to hear the New Generation Wind proposal.
This is the second time that proposal, to site seven 492-foot tall wind turbines on 373 acres in Bournedale, has come before the commission. One of the turbines will be a 3 megawatt machine, the others, 2.5 megawatts. They are expected to produce 17 megawatts of power, enough to provide electricity for some 3,200 homes.
In February—after several public hearings and months of review—by the time it had come down to a vote, the review subcommittee was reduced in number from an original five members and two alternates to just three members.
Rather than chance its future to so few people, New Generation Wind withdrew its application, refiling it in April.
This week, a new subcommittee opened a hearing on the refiled application. It comprises Peter Graham, who represents Truro on the Cape Cod Commission; John D. Harris, the commission’s minority representative; Joanne O’Keefe, who represents Sandwich; Michael Blanton, Bourne’s representative; and Roy Richardson, who represents Barnstable.
The subcommittee alternates will be Richard Roy, who represents Dennis, and Robert Bradley, for Harwich.
Page Czepiga, commission regulatory officer, told those assembled for the hearing that the filing would be reviewed under the rules for a Development of Regional Impact, regulations far more suitable for an industrial park or subdivision than wind turbines, and not the county’s newly passed wind turbine regulations.
The project needs to comply with the minimum standards of Barnstable County’s Regional Policy Plan and Bourne’s zoning bylaws. The project is sited in a District of Critical Planning Concern. One of the planned turbines lies in a wellhead protection area and the others in a Potential Public Water Supply. The rules for those districts will be taken into account, as will Bourne’s Long-Term Comprehensive Plan.
None of the testimony that was presented the first time the project was reviewed will be a part of the record, unless it is resubmitted.
Ms. Czepiga said the commission will attempt to put all materials submitted online at www.capecodcommission.org/newgeneration. The staff’s report to the subcommittee, which outlines where staffers believe New Generation Wind does, or does not, meet minimum standards, is already posted on that site.
The subcommittee, which heard testimony from shortly after 5:30 PM to almost 8:30 PM this week, is asking whoever wants to provide additional, extended testimony, to request time, in writing, by noon on May 31.
The commission is asking that only one member of any group or organization testify and that anyone who is a member of a group that has already gone on record to not testify as an individual.
The subcommittee hopes to meet again on Thursday, June 16, at the Bourne High School library to hear the extended testimony.
Commission staff had a half-hour to point out those areas where more information is needed, or where they felt the applicant had not met standards. Ms. Czepiga focused on a need for more information on the economic benefits of the project, offsets for the hazardous materials that will be on site—something that is required given the project’s location—and its impact on the character of the historical neighborhood in which it lies.
She said the US Army Corps of Engineers said some 4 million people visit the Cape Cod Canal area annually and noted that the turbines will be very visible from scenic roadways and vistas, as well as from the historical bridges leading to the Cape.
Project attorney Diane C. Tillotson of Hemenway & Barnes had a half-hour to answer and rebut.
The commission staff, for example, had questioned the idea the applicant might offset the presence of hazardous materials by not installing tanks on Cape Cod Aggregates’ portion of the New Generation Wind site that had been recently permitted. The applicant said those tanks had originally been purchased and planned for in 2009, but final permitting had been forestalled so as to offer them as mitigation.
Ms. Tillotson said some of the material deemed hazardous would only be on site for the weeks need for turbine construction or for the turbines’ refueling, something that only occurred every three to seven years. Another of the applicant’s representatives said special temporary refueling pads could be used to prevent any spillage during those times.
She also argued that wind turbines, themselves, replace hazardous materials used elsewhere, for example, in oil or coal-fired electric generating plants.
The applicant also argued, as did at least two of the people later testifying from the audience, that something one person sees as an eyesore and a detriment, another finds beautiful, emphasizing that the visual standard was subjective.
After federal, state, and local officials were invited to speak, only one official from a quasi-state agency, the Clean Energy Center, rose to comment. He told subcommittee members that all turbines were different and urged that the subcommittee concentrate on “project-specific analysis” and not waste time on listening to testimony about projects in other places. His agency, he said, had offered a loan to New Generation Wind and believed the project was being approached in an appropriate and straightforward manner.
Although several Bourne officials were present, none rose to speak.
When testimony was taken, in the order people signed up to speak, Hyannis attorney Paul Revere, who represents the Economides family, abutters of the Bournedale property, zeroed in first on the fact that all witnesses had to be sworn in. Before he could finish a comment giving his opinion on the truthfulness of the applicant, he was cut short by Ms. Czepiga, who said all those who testify at any subcommittee, for or against any project, will be sworn in at all hearings going forward, pursuant to new commission rules.
Mr. Revere said he was angered by the fact that New Generation Wind filed subdivision plans in Bourne as a way to avoid review under Bourne’s newly passed amendments to its wind turbine bylaw.
In response, Ms. Tillotson said that the Legislature created the subdivision rules so that projects like New Generation Wind, which had been in the planning for more than two years, at considerable engineering, legal, and other expense, did not have to have the rules change in midstream by actions such as those in Bourne, where citizens petitioned for a change with the New Generation Wind project clearly in mind.
Testimony at the commission included both proponents and opponents of the project. Among the opponents was Susan Daniels of Glacier Way, the street located the closest of any of those abutting the project. She said she testified last November, and was reiterating, that her only home was about 800 feet from a planned turbine, and that the project, as proposed, would destroy everything she and her family had worked for over some 30 years.
Mashnee Island resident Richard W. Conron said the commission’s job on Cape Cod was “to keep a special place special.” He said the magnitude of the proposed project would lower the quality of life for those surrounding it and devalue their land.
Joyce A. Lorman of Wings Neck Road urged people on both sides of the issue to keep an open mind. Ms. Lorman said she expected the project to change considerably through both the commission and planning board review processes. She said there might not end up being seven turbines, or turbines of the size proposed. It is not, she said, “a black and white issue.”
Annette Herbst of Head of the Bay Road, who came from Germany some 13 years ago, said her parents had been livid when wind turbines were sited near them. Now, some years later, she said she asked her father about them; he said he does not even notice them any more. She said the nuclear power plant in Plymouth and the power plant on the Cape Cod Canal in Sandwich scare her far more than any potential wind turbines in Bournedale.
Walter Nagle of Mirasol Drive, a retired educator, as is his wife, Barbara, worried about the effect of the proposed turbine on the abutting Bournedale Elementary School students.
At the beginning of the hearing, Mr. Graham, the subcommittee chairman, had set out the rules for polite discourse and noted that a policeman was stationed in the back of the room. During the lengthy hearing, he only had to ask one person to refrain from calling out a comment. After everyone had an opportunity to speak, and the applicant had five minutes for closing comments, Ms Czepiga reminded people that full information on providing testimony is online, and the hearing was recessed to June 16.