Killing the currently proposed wind turbine project based on an unintended zoning technicality undermines Cohasset’s desire to manage, not ban, the growing movement toward locally generated clean energy.
There are legitimate reasons for opposing wind turbines and then there’s grasping at straws or, in this case, trees.
Cohasset voters took reasonable steps in 2008 to prevent these giant steel pinwheels from sprouting up in people’s backyards. They agreed nobody should have to feel like they’re stuck in an episode of “Teletubbies,” where the whir of windmills seems to never end, or worry about one crashing onto their house.
The problem in Cohasset is that opponents to a turbine proposal there have latched onto the fact that the 800-acre forest abutting the project is zoned residential.
They are technically correct in asserting that the town’s new wind-power bylaws prohibit turbines on the proposed site but in doing so they ignore the spirit of the law.
This is the second time the town has been presented with developer James Sweeney’s plans for two turbines off Route 3A. It failed, by one vote, to win planning board approval last year but Sweeney appealed to the state Land Court, where a judge ordered it back before the board for reconsideration.
Throughout the project review last year, opponents expressed concerns about noise, ice being thrown from turbine blades and the possibility of a turbine falling.
This time around, opponents are focused on the new bylaw that says no part of a turbine’s “fall zone” can be within a residential area.
While Whitney and Thayer Woods, an 800-acre parcel of conservation land next to the turbine site, is zoned for residential use it would be a stretch to suggest this is a fair application of the bylaw.
Kenneth Ingram, an attorney for Sweeney’s company, CCI Energy, has told the town that the project has the support of the Trustees of Reservations, the nonprofit group that owns the parcel, and he said the land will never be developed.
Conrad Langenhagen, a resident of the nearby Rose Hill neighborhood and one of the project’s most vocal opponents, has suggested efforts at interpreting the bylaw’s intent would end up undermining the role of such rules.
“We might as well crumple them up and throw them all away,” he said.
Project supporters, however, are rightfully pressing the planning board to exercise its right to read between the lines.
As has been the case in many South Shore communities, voters enacted these wind regulations with the desire to protect neighborhoods while allowing the development of alternative-energy sources.
If a project would create legitimate problems or dangers for the town’s residents, it should be fought on that basis.
Killing it based on an unintended zoning technicality undermines the town’s desire to manage, not ban, the growing movement toward locally generated clean energy.
The Patriot Ledger