[VIDEO] Planning Board wants flicker regulation, sending turbine debate to town meeting
TOWN HOUSE- Kingston’s center of political gravity, the Planning Board, is sending the ongoing debate about shadow-flicker regulation to a town meeting with a recommendation allowing no more than 30 hours of flicker per year at any residence.
That upcoming town meeting, which is not yet scheduled, will first have to endure an August 8 public hearing on shadow-flicker.
Public hearings, which can only be held if a regulation is being discussed, are the first step of the process before declaring a special town meeting.
Tom Bott, Kingston’s Town Planner, got the ball rolling last night by suggesting a regulation that would limit shadow flicker from wind turbines in Kingston to no more than 30 hours a year. Bott described the 30-hour per year limit as “an industry standard.”
Bott also described the recent comments of turbine owner Kially Ruiz as “unconstructive” and “over the top.”
“While a couple of the turbine owners have recommended they’ll buy curtains and blinds for people, I’ve not seen anybody else who thinks that’s a proper mitigation,” Bott said. “I think…the proper mitigation for excessive flicker is to turn [the turbines] off when you’re in that condition.”
Tom Bouchard, the Chairman of Kingston’s Planning Board, agreed, calling the suggestion to buy blinds for affected residents “silly.”
“I think it will help with what we have in place now,” Bouchard said when speaking about the possibility of a townwide regulation on shadow flicker. “If there’s a standard and the town has adopted the standard…then I think the [turbine] owners will have to deal with it.”
Bouchard found agreement from other members of his board.
Planning Board-member Bob Gosselin pointed out that some residences in Kingston “really exceed the time” of exposure to flicker when considering a possible future regulation.
A recently released Clean Energy Center (CEC) flicker study put some locations in Kingston at over 80 hours of flicker per year.
“Maybe by not running [the turbines] at that time of the day…it’d solve the problem,” Gosselin suggested.
Fellow Planning Board-member Mike Ruprecht also chimed in, saying the 30 hour per year suggestion “sounds great.”
The only parties in the room who weren’t on board with Bott’s “industry standard” suggestion were the Reilly’s, who live on Leland Road–within 1,000 feet of the Kingston Wind Independence (KWI) Turbine.
Sean Reilly, who sat next to his son in front of the Planning Board on Monday night, called even 30 hours of shadow-flicker per year “unacceptable.”
“I have a family that lives in a house that can’t come home and do homework in the afternoon because of shadow flicker,” Reilly said. “It’s a major problem.”
Reilly also said he believes the KWI Turbine should be “shut off until it’s fixed,” which led Bouchard to fire back, “okay, well, that’s your opinion.”
“We’re not prepared to have this discussion right now,” Bouchard said to Reilly. “I know what you’re going through…I appreciate you being here but this is not the time for it.”
Bouchard continued, telling Reilly that “the idea of putting 30 hours on the table was an idea to start somewhere.”
“Whether it changes from 30 to ten, or five, or zero is fine with me. I just want to start somewhere because right now we have nothing,” Bouchard said before Reilly interjected, asking why Bouchard wouldn’t start at zero.
“I don’t know that that’s the right thing to do,” Bouchard said, which prompted Reilly to ask why not.
“Wait, don’t interrupt me. I’m talking,” Bouchard said to Reilly. “Listen, the train comes through. I can’t tell them to turn off the siren, can I?”
“Whatever part of town you’re in, you deal with some kind of an impact,” Bouchard said. “What level of impact that should be, I don’t know.”
Bouchard said he was glad the town didn’t shutdown the turbines six months ago, when the Board of Selectmen (BOS) voted 3-1 to shutdown the turbines before flip-flopping and reconsidering the vote minutes later.
“The reality might be that you have to live with some flicker,” Bouchard told Reilly. “And your neighbors might have to. And somebody in Indian Pond might have to.”
Bouchard said he is only intending to get a conversation about flicker-regulation started as he reiterated “because right now we have nothing.”
The upcoming shadow-flicker public hearing is scheduled for August 8, although it is not yet listed on KingstonMass.org.
Next Monday, on July 1, a joint meeting between the BOS and the Board of Health (BOH) will discuss the results of the CEC’s site-specific flicker study. Representatives from the Department of Environmental Protection, CEC and EAPC will be on hand for next Monday’s joint meeting.
A site-specific flicker study was not conducted for any of Kingston’s wind turbines, as first reported by the Journal in February, until this month when a study was conducted by CEC nearly a year after the turbines’ construction.
For nearly six months, the Kingston BOH has declined to regulate shadow flicker despite emotional pleas from residents who claim to be negatively affected.