Comments at the Citizens Forum

In 2002, my husband Michael and I moved to Charlestown from our home in Northern Virginia, a suburb of Washington, DC.  After spending 30 years in a busy metropolis, Charlestown was our place to retire to and quietly “live out the rest of our days.”  Charlestown is a little piece of heaven.

Through neighbors, we learned about the Whalerock Project proposed by and for the benefit of Mr. Larry LeBlanc, requesting a permit to build two industrial size wind turbines on residential land.

In 2000 I saw my first wind farm in Germany and thought it was beautiful.  I was excited when wind farms sprang up in the US.  What a wonderful way to provide renewable energy.  However these farms were all in the distance with no development nearby.

My husband and I joined forces with other neighbors to hire a lawyer to stop the actions of the Town Council from fast-tracking a building permit that would allow Whalerock to proceed to build two 410 feet high, industrial size wind turbines on a strip of land adjacent to Route 1.  At the time, the Town Council had entered into a partnership with Mr. LeBlanc that would much more benefit Mr. LeBlanc than it would the citizens of Charlestown.  Our intention in this suit was to prevent this project from proceeding since it would be harmful to us and to the surrounding areas.  “Not in my back yard” you might say, but our concern was not just immediate, but, to preserve the character of our precious town.  I have never perceived Charlestown as a place for any type of industrial enterprise.

The result of our legal action caused a temporary restraining order to be issued and the partnership with the town council to be dissolved, requiring Whalerock to go through the proper channels in compliance with the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board.  The Whalerock application is for a Special Use Permit, which means that the Zoning Board alone could issue or not issue this Special Use Permit without the approval of the Town Council.  Just prior to the Whalerock’s original application being submitted, Charlestown adopted a Wind Ordinance.  The Wind Ordinance did not comply with any standards to protect the health and safety of citizens and the environment.

The Town Council has issued a moratorium on approving wind turbines, and the Planning Board is in the process of re-writing the town’s wind ordinance.  This is commendable and appreciated; however, in a meeting last Tuesday (January 18, 2011), Whalerock’s application was grandfathered to proceed under the existing Wind Ordinance.

Our neighborhood group has learned a lot in this process and we continue to conduct research into this issue.  We have learned and data shows:

  1. Current trends for setbacks on Industrial height wind turbines should be at least 1000 feet.  Our ordinance setback requires a mere 500 feet. Mr. LeBlanc’s project only has to be setback 500 feet.
  2. Industrial size wind turbines with improper setbacks will cause health and safety problems resulting from noise, strumming, flickering, ice-throw, and actual toppling over of the wind mills.  Mr. LeBlanc’s planned construction places two turbines extremely close to abutting residences.
  3. Wind turbines cause harm to birds in flight and wild life, over time, vanishes in areas where they exist.
  4. Property values will decline dramatically within two miles of the turbines, and proportionately within ten miles from the turbines.
  5. Electricity from turbines costs more to produce and this would be passed on to consumer.

I learned about the Charlestown’s Zoning Board Special Use Permit.

According to Article V, Section 2180 – 25, the Charlestown Special Use Permit is as follows:
If the parcel of land is zoned residential and someone wants to use it for another purpose (such as putting up an industrial strength wind turbine) a Special Use Permit must be granted to bypass zoning regulations.

A.) A Special Use Permit may be approved by the (Zoning) Board following a public hearing if, in the opinion of the Board, that evidence to the satisfaction of the following standards has been entered into the record of the proceedings:

  1. The public convenience and welfare will be substantially served.  (The Whalerock Project does not serve the public convenience and welfare at all, and in truth only serves Mr. LeBlanc and those who will be working directly with him.)
  2. It will not result in adverse impacts or create conditions that will be inimical to the public health, safety, orals and general welfare of the community. (Granting Whalerock a Special Use Permit will most definitely have an adverse impact to the public health, safety and general welfare of the community.)
  3. The requested special use permit will not alter the general character of the surrounding area or impair the intent or purpose of this Zoning Ordinance or the Comprehensive Plan upon which this Ordinance is based; (The construction of two industrial size turbines WILL alter the character of the surrounding area.
  4. That the granting of a special use permit will not pose a threat to drinking water supplies;
  5. That the use will not disrupt the neighborhood or the privacy of abutting landowners by excessive noise, light glare or air pollutants;  (If all the abutting landowners are made aware of the current research, they would soon realize how disrupted their lives will become.)
  6. The sewage and waste disposal into the ground and the surface water drainage from the proposed use will be adequately handled on site;
  7. That the traffic generated by the proposed use will not cause undue congestion or introduce a traffic hazard to the circulation pattern of the area.  This would include distractions.

Issuing a special use permit to Whalerock will cause public harm in Charlestown.  Industrial size turbines, such as those proposed by Whalerock DO NOT FIT.  We have very little to gain and everything to lose.

I believe that the role of the Town Council is to protect the safety, health, well being and the economic stability of all the citizens of Charlestown, and not just individuals.  We look to the Town Council (and Charlestown Zoning Board) to preserve the character and beauty of Charlestown.  For this purpose, please help me understand how the Town Council is not being more proactive in stopping this project from going forward.  In this case will a Special Use Permit become a Special Interest Permit?

Donna Chambers