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Duxbury residents quickly object to wind turbine plan

By Christine Legere
Globe Correspondent / November 20, 2011

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DUXBURY - In a town whose tallest structure is the Myles Standish Monument, consideration of a 276-foot industrial wind turbine that would cast its shadow on high-end neighborhoods, municipal buildings, a golf course, and conservation land is stirring up opposition.

The concerns are the usual: health and nuisance issues related to noise and flicker caused by spinning blades, lack of aesthetic appeal, and lowered property values. What may be less typical is the speed with which opponents mobilized. They have already established a website and hired an attorney known for battling similar proposals.

At issue is a feasibility study identifying a site near the North Hill Country Club’s ninth hole tee box as the best place to erect the town’s first wind turbine. While the surrounding area includes 1,000 acres in municipal, recreation, and conservation land, the turbine would still be close to the municipal golf course, Hounds Ditch Lane, and several other residential neighborhoods.

New York-based Sustainable Energy Developments Inc. looked at several locations before presenting its final draft to the Duxbury Alternative Energy Committee on Nov. 1. Its experts concluded the North Hill golf course location held the most promise, and they suggested a 276-foot turbine that produces 900 kilowatts of power, since anything smaller wouldn’t be cost-effective. The turbine’s cost was estimated at about $3 million.

While the suggested model is modest compared with the 500-foot, 2-megawatt turbines being considered nearby in Cohasset, Wareham, and Plymouth, it would still require a variance from Duxbury’s bylaw capping height at 250 feet.

Hounds Ditch Lane resident Mary Hunt, a member of the citizens’ opposition group called Duxbury Wind Wise, said the project doesn’t fit Duxbury’s character, where commercial/industrial development stands below 4 percent.

“Duxbury is historic/residential,’’ Hunt said. “We don’t have big stores and we don’t have industrial uses. This is a town that had a long debate over the color of the awnings at Dunkin’ Donuts, and now we’re going to build this monstrosity on the ninth hole?’’

Duxbury Wind Wise has hired lawyer Christopher Senie, a land-use specialist who represents wind opponents on the Cape and in Wareham and Plymouth.

“I support renewable energy, and wind has a place in that, but we haven’t gotten it right yet,’’ said Senie, who added turbines have become larger and are being placed too close to dense developments. “The pendulum needs to swing back.’’

Hounds Ditch Lane resident Scott Johnson has seen plenty of wind turbines in his native Minnesota. “It makes a lot of sense in places like Minnesota and Texas where there are big open areas, but not here, where there are residences,’’ he said.

Duxbury planning director Thomas Broadrick stressed that Sustainable Energy’s report is still a draft. “The Alternative Energy Committee hasn’t accepted it yet,’’ he said.

Broadrick said he did not anticipate the opposition the proposed wind turbine has generated. “It’s not like this hasn’t been on everybody’s radar,’’ he said. “The town passed the wind bylaw more than a year ago. While we thought the NIMBY [not in my backyard] thing could come into play when the proposal was more formalized, we didn’t anticipate the organization of the opposition.’’

Jay Hunt, Mary’s husband, argues the proposal is not widely known. “If you told most people they’re going to have a 300-foot wind turbine stuck in the middle of town, they would be shocked,’’ Hunt said. “You can’t even get a sign changed in Duxbury without six levels of approval.’’

The Massachusetts Audubon Society has also entered the discussion, sending a letter seeking study of the effect on bat and bird populations and asking that the state’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species experts be contacted regarding protected wildlife. MassAudubon oversees a wildlife preserve near the targeted location.

If the energy committee supports Sustainable Energy’s recommendation, the next step would be to secure Town Meeting funding for further study or design. Articles for next spring’s Annual Town Meeting must be submitted by Dec. 6. The committee’s website lists that meeting as its expected date to present a wind turbine project to voters.

Chairman James Goldenberg said the Alternative Energy Committee will consider options Tuesday, when they meet at 7:30 p.m. at the senior center.

“We may want more studies done before we move forward, but I can’t speak for the committee,’’ Goldenberg said. “The closest neighbors have expressed their concern in no uncertain terms, but they are just one group. We want to understand and address those concerns, but this will be a community decision.’’

Selectmen chairman Shawn Dahlen called the draft release the beginning of a long process. “The hearings are an opportunity for citizens to voice their views, and a great deal of data collection and study still needs to be done,’’ he said.

Broadrick said it’s hard to tell the level of support the wind turbine project has. “This could be a silent majority thing,’’ he said. The opposition is dominating discussion, he said, but Town Meeting will ultimately settle the debate with its vote for funding.

Christine Legere can be reached at