Peru voters reject plan to lower level of noise allowed by wind turbines

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PERU -- Voters on Monday rejected a key revision to the town's wind energy bylaw, in part, because opponents felt it didn't fully address the potential impact of wind turbines on the community.

By a count of 138 to 114, a special town meeting turned down a proposed amendment calling for turbines not to exceed 45 decibels for more than 15 minutes in any one day at any residence in Peru. A two-thirds majority -- or at least 168 votes -- were needed to approve the zoning change.

The current bylaw town meeting voters endorsed eight years ago allows for a maximum of 60 decibels in a 15-minute period, with a yearly average of 40 decibels.

Town officials said the planned revision tightened an existing decibel requirement they feel developers could exploit and build a wind project unwanted by the community.

However, many townspeople felt the change was unwarranted, since Peru has yet to see an official wind turbine proposal since the bylaw was put on the books in 2005.

In addition, a number of residents urged the town to review and possibly revises other aspects of the wind energy regulation.

"The bylaw should only allow turbines in commercially zoned areas," said Candice Cahalan.

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Kevin Cahill, who is concerned a greater setback is needed from homes, wants to revisit the bylaw allowing for up to a 660-foot turbine 990 feet from the nearest house.

He said no matter how many turbines are erected, "some people are going to suffer seriously with their health."

"There is no scientific proof of health effects from these turbines," replied William Golden of Lighthouse Energy based in Acton. The Falmouth man's company has considered erecting up to six wind turbines on Garnet Hill.

While opponents felt the bylaw revision would put Golden's project -- and possibly others -- on a fast track, the developer noted he and others would have to wade through a lengthy local, state and federal approval process.

"You're not going to see wind turbines in every corner of Peru," Golden said.

The special town meeting was delayed 30 minutes to account for an overflow crowd at the Town Hall. The more than 250 people in attendance -- 42 percent of the town's registered voters -- had to be shuffled to the more spacious new fire station.

The voters also rejected an amendment to the wind energy bylaw that would allow a homeowner to waive the decibel requirement and negotiate a deal with a potential developer. Town officials said a single waiver didn't mean automatic approval for the project.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.


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