WHO’S THE BOSS? Jack Breen, Toni Cushman express frustrations with Planning Board
TOWN HOUSE- As the Kingston Wind Independence (KWI) Turbine stands idle—in need of repairs after a direct strike from a lightening bolt—some Board of Health (BOH) members are publicly voicing fears that the Planning Board is trying to steal their thunder by drafting wind turbine regulations without consulting the Kingston health board.
“For [the Planning Board] to go forward without our input is ludicrous,” BOH-member Jack Breen said on Monday night. “It shows very bad town government.”
The BOH has been grappling with citizen complaints about flicker and noise directed at Kingston’s four industrial-sized wind turbines since October of last year, logging tens of hours of testimony from concerned residents and state experts.
Late last month, the Planning Board decided to get in on the action and moved for a public hearing on August 8 in hopes of drafting a regulation on shadow flicker.
Monday night, BOH-Chairman Joe Casna rebutted and assured his board that any Planning Board regulation would have “no effect on the current turbines,” but that’s not what Planning Board Chairman Tom Bouchard seemed to indicate on June 25 when reviewing the CEC’s recently-released flicker study…
“I think it will help with what we have in place now,” Bouchard said when speaking about the possibility of a town-wide 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’s June 25 statements seemed to be in line with the sentiments of Town Planner Tom Bott.
“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 on June 25. “I think…the proper mitigation for excessive flicker is to turn [the turbines] off when you’re in that condition.”
Bouchard and Bott both suggested capping shadow flicker at 30 hours per year, which set off a discussion about flicker from existing turbines.
After reviewing the CEC flicker study, Planning Board-member Bob Gosselin stated that some residences in Kingston “really exceed the time” of exposure to flicker when considering a possible future regulation. “Maybe by not running [the turbines] at that time of the day…it’d solve the problem,” Gosselin suggested at last month’s meeting.Enter Jack Breen.
“This is a BOH issue, not a Planning Board issue,” Breen said on Monday night. “We might as well get into the zoning game if they’re in the nuisance game.”
Breen continued, calling for a joint meeting between the BOH and the Planning Board to avoid what he called “a divergent approach to this matter.”
BOH-newcomer Toni Cushman agreed.
“They should be working with us,” Cushman said before adding that the two boards should be on the same page.
“Why are we allowing this to go on?” Breen asked his board when referring to the Planning Board’s plans to regulate shadow flicker from wind turbines.
Breen got even more direct in his criticism of the Planning Board and pointed out that there had been “no communication” between Bott’s office and the BOH. “It’s quite likely that we’ll arrive to two different figures here,” Breen added.
Breen then suggested, with agreement from his board, that the BOH author a note to Chairman Bouchard encouraging cooperation between the two public bodies.
A public hearing for shadow-flicker regulation on August 8 has not yet been posted on KingstonMass.org and the next Planning Board meeting is scheduled for August 12.
If flicker regulation were to be adopted by the Planning Board, pending a public hearing, it would be subject to town meeting approval as a warrant article in either the Fall of 2013 or the Spring of 2014.