Letter from Phil Bloomstein
As it appeared on page A9 of the July 16, 2009 issue of the Republican Journal.
Living Next To a Wind Turbine
We have the distinct “privilege” of living 1,000 feet from tower T3 of the Beaver Ridge Wind Project. Freedom residents on both sides of Beaver Ridge live almost as close but none as close as my family and me. We have tower T3 literally staring us right in the face winter and summer. In the summer the tower and blades almost disappear when you are by the house, but the tower and blades still hang above the house as you walk in our lower gardens. And, you can view the wind turbine from many other spots on our land.
As disturbing as the visual presence of a nearly 400-foot wind turbine is, and its occasional hours of turbine-blade flicker, all that pales in comparison to the noise the turbines often produce. I would dare say we live in one of the noisiest neighborhoods in Waldo County.
Let’s get one thing straight. I’m not claiming my life has been ruined. I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m sure many of you have suffered personal tragedies much worse than having a wind turbine built next to you.
What I am asking for is the truth and some justice.
I want to present you with a credible picture of the turbine’s effects on the quality of our family’s home life. I also want you to understand that the town of Freedom’s planning and permitting of the Beaver Ridge Wind Project was extremely flawed. It was marked by deceptions, poor planning, and small-town politics at its worst. In my opinion, the project has proven that many good folks in the town of Freedom were outwitted by CES now Beaver Ridge Wind. Many community members were so pro green they were susceptible to the developer’s deceptive practices and failed to be responsible to us and our neighbors.
My challenge is to convince you that I am telling the truth. And that others, including my neighbors, the folks in Mars Hill and as far away as the Midwest, are also telling the truth about the disturbing noise created by these machines. Living next to a wind turbine is, to say the least, a very unpleasant experience. Good meaning people write me and say; “We just don’t get it”. They tell me they have visited the Beaver Ridge turbines several times in different wind conditions, and it just doesn’t seem that bad.
I also visited wind turbines. I visited them with the knowledge that one was going to be built very close to my house. I came away thinking living next to one was going to be somewhat annoying but that it probably was going to be OK. I was encouraged by the promises of Beaver Ridge Wind (then called CES). The very same promises that were never kept.
What my neighbors and I have experienced has been much more negative than we had ever imagined.
What is it really like living next to the turbines? There are “good days,” but there are way too many bad ones. Although the noise is almost always there, it is not constant in its intensity or type of sound. In minutes it can turn from an almost tolerable drone to a pulsating nightmare so oppressive that any outdoor activity is challenging. The noise also penetrates into the house. On many nights, as soon as you turn off the TV or stereo you immediately hear them. At least four to eight times a month they are very loud. The night noise can be especially disturbing. Some nights there is a loud pulsating noise that lasts right into the morning, on those days we get discouraged. We think that this can’t be good for our health and we well give up and sell out.
The wind industry, often in concert with well-meaning government officials and environmental activists, uses all its power to diminish complaints and convince the general public that “wind farms” are quiet and that most folks don’t mind living next to them.
When CES (now called Beaver Ridge Wind) came to Freedom, they assured us the turbines would be quiet. During the permitting process, they presented a study showing the noise level at our home would hardly ever be above 45 dBa. When all was said and done, the noise levels exceeded the promised levels (often twice as loud). When I asked Beaver Ridge Wind what they were going to do about the noise, they looked me right in the eyes and said they never really exactly promised us that.
The developer’s clever promises and use of wind industry propaganda made it easy for the townspeople to support the project even though the setbacks in Freedom were among the weakest in the country. The setbacks were even below manufacturer’s suggested distances at property lines. It is my intent to show how the townspeople were misled. But for now, understand the developers presented a wind study they commissioned saying the sound levels at my house would rarely exceed 45 decibels. The truth is, sound levels are regularly over the promised level, and on many windy nights, can be twice as loud.
Victims of poorly planned wind turbine developments from Mars Hill, Maine to the Midwest are not believed. Fine citizens with the highest of motives dismiss these folks as whiners or less than credible. I have heard people say, you’ll get used to it. You don’t. There are many contributing factors to this. A few are that the noise changes with wind speed, the types of noise produced, wind direction and atmospheric pressure. The developers should have considered the fact that our home is on a side of a hill downwind from the prevailing wind. Documents can be found and downloaded on the Beaver Ridge Wind web site that explain, “in some hilly terrain where residents are located in sheltered dips or hollows downwind from the turbines, turbine sounds may carry further and be more audible.”
Why was this not considered in our case?
There is the classic wind-energy comparison of a turbine's noise level to your refrigerator. First of all, at my house, the turbines are much louder and more annoying than my refrigerator. But let’s assume the turbines do sound like my refrigerator. I ask you to imagine your fridge is always running and that also, you have one on your deck, in your garden, by the compost, next to the garage, three or four in your backyard, several well placed down your driveway, one at each door, one next to the grandkids's wing set, and don’t forget the ones hanging outside your bedroom window.
Get the idea? I think you might find even your fridge noise a little annoying.
Then there are the possible negative health effects. Remember, the tower is almost 400-feet tall at the tip of the blades and we are 1,060 feet from the middle of the base. So at times, the tips of the blades are about 930 feet away. After a night of pulsating turbine noise that continues right into the morning, (no matter what studies prove) I feel as if this can’t be good for my family. I can only imagine what it would be like if one were predisposed to headaches, depression or a sleep disorder.
Perhaps you are thinking, well someone has to suffer for the good of humanity, it might as well be the Bloomsteins. Maybe you are right, but does that give the developers and the wind-energy industry the right to lie about the impact? Beaver Ridge Wind and other projects in Maine are not municipal projects, these wind turbines are for profit. I might be less angry if they had said, OK your life is going to change and not in a good way. There will be a negative impact, you will be sacrificing the quiet rural life you once had for the good of the environment.
But no, they don’t do that. They lie and tell your town you’ll barely hear them and it will be like being in a quiet room or a library. They could be honest and tell you that it will be noisy at your home. Beaver Ridge Wind could have mentioned the fact that other people have chosen to sell out rather than live close to a wind turbine. Instead they show videos and PowerPoint slideshows with misleading and deceptive statements.
For us the damage is done. The turbines are up, and most likely, they are not coming down for a long time.
So the question for my family and me is: What do we do? We have lived and worked on our property for the past 34 years. Do we leave the house we built, the gardens we’ve planted, the place my children and their children love? Or, do we stay and learn to deal with the noise, worry about unknown health hazards, keep windows closed at night in the summer, sleep with earplugs on loud nights — whatever it takes to stay sane?
We know our home will never be the same. If we do leave, what about the value of our house? The industry will tell you house values go up or stay the same, but there are many studies which show quite the opposite.
No matter what we do our family now must fight for our rights. No one comes up to us and offers a solution. Oh, Beaver Ridge Wind might tell you they are working with us and in fact they are: but not until we approached them with our concerns. Beaver Ridge Wind never did a sound study after the turbines went into operation. Their basic approach is to say nothing, do nothing and only respond when the Bloomsteins or other neighbors complain, but not until then.
It has become evident to us that trying to be reasonable, open-minded and pro green has been rewarded by deceptive practices, small-town politics at its worst and a radically negative change to our lifestyle.
We struggle to figure out what to do. We want the truth to be known. We want to be believed. We seek justice in the form of adequate compensation. We also hope in some small way we can prevent others from suffering a similar fate.
Please don’t be so zealous in your support of alternative energy that you allow an industry, even a green one, to avoid any reasonable regulations. They need to be held accountable. No company out for profit should be given a free pass.
My family and other families in similar situations should not be forced to seek compensation in the courts or make deals under conditions of confidentiality.
Maine needs to grow up when it comes to wind development. There is no need to repeat the mistakes that were made in Freedom and Mars Hill.
Phil Bloomstein – Freedom, Maine
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Letter from Barbara Littlefield
November 13, 2009
My family and I live on the Deer Hill Road in Freedom, roughly 0.6 miles from Beaver Ridge where the 3 turbines have been erected. Actually, Phil and Debbie Bloomstein (check out their shadow flicker video on You Tube) are neighbors. In 1999 part of our decision to purchase the 16+ acres off the Deer Hill Road was largely based upon its peacefulness and seclusion. Thus, my concern when I heard that wind turbines were being erected on Beaver Ridge within walking distance from my home. I wasn’t sure what they were and didn’t know anything about them so took it upon myself to do a little research. Holy cow, you wouldn’t believe the amount of information, both pro and con, available out there. It took me weeks to get a general idea of what they were all about. This was, however, long enough for me to decide I didn’t want them anywhere near my home or my family.
I won’t go into the details about the town’s activities in regards to these turbines or the gossip and accusations that were flung around. In essence, we were (and still are) a town divided. My family, too, was divided. I was completely opposed to the turbines coming to Beaver Ridge. My thoughts were that they were too dangerous and disruptive to be placed close to residential properties – my own included. My husband, on the other hand, was neutral. He took no side in the ensuing battle, attended only one meeting and, if asked, his response was, “They can’t be that bad or people wouldn’t be putting them up.” Or my personal favorite, “It’s his property let him do what he wants.” Nearing the time of assembly of the turbines my husband didn’t even want to discuss the subject with me. He’d pretty much had heard enough and it became sort of a taboo subject in our household.
So . . . imagine my perverted glee when about a week after the turbines became operational, I got up one morning to find my husband sitting on the couch in one of the foulest moods I’d seen him in for a long time. My husband is a very sound sleeper and once asleep is extremely hard to wake up. (This is a man who can sleep through a booming thunderstorm and who slept through the big earthquake we had back in the late 90s.) It appears that wind turbines can wake him up and keep him up. I listened to him rant and rave for hours before I finally left for work. I do want to point out I was a good wife and bit my tongue – not once did I utter aloud “Told you so.” My husband still has nights when he’ll get up because the noise has awoken him and he can’t get back to sleep.
Our home is nestled in a little clearing completely surrounded by forest, but from our front yard we can see one of the turbine’s blades turning through the trees – even during full foliage. The noise is unbearable on windy days, sounding much like an airplane engine accompanied by the rhythmic whoosh of the rotating blades. On a mild day, it’s very annoying to constantly be looking for the plane that never passes overhead and especially irritating because the noise doesn’t fade away but is a consistent background drone. I will admit that, at first, it was slightly amusing to watch our friends continuously looking up at the sky trying to find aforementioned elusive plane after the turbines went up. To this day, visiting friends will comment on the noise and we’ll nostalgically talk about how peaceful it used to be. My husband and I, at least, are now united in our negative feelings towards the Beaver Ridge turbines. I know of 3 families that have the same views as my husband and I, but I’ll let them tell their own stories.
There have been numerous nights that the noise produced by the turbines can be heard over the sound of our television (with the volume turned up to 34 – which in itself is disruptive). The whooshing of the rotating blades, while you might think would be soothing is, in fact, nerve racking. One night, as I was drifting off to sleep, I realized my heartbeat had slowed down to beat in sync with the whoosh produced by the rotating blades. I have to admit I panicked. The feeling was so unnatural and weird that it scared me. It took me hours to fall asleep afterwards. I kept waiting for it to happen again.
I would also like to mention that Bob Garrish, another neighbor, has put up a big hand painted sign at the end of our road that says “No Access to Windmills” as he’s been blocked out of his driveway several times by parked cars belonging to visitors to the turbines. And yes, he did make a public complaint that resulted in the town erecting a very small sign warning violators that parking and turning around on the road would result in prosecution, or some such thing. Neither sign has been an effective deterrent.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for “green” power and even understand the necessity for it, but at what point does it become less of an asset and more of a liability? At what point does the money that may be obtained and/or saved more important than the health and goodwill of your friends, your loved ones and your community? Are there other less disruptive resources available that might aid a town in becoming more economically secure? I do know that Freedom has an existing pond and a dam. Would this have been a less controversial and more beneficial endeavor in producing a form of “green” power for Freedom? Who knows . . .
The one thing that shocked and baffled me the most about this whole Beaver Ridge business was the voting out of Freedom’s town ordinance. I apologize if I am wrong, but my understanding of the purpose of any town’s ordinance is for the protection of THE town and ALL it’s residents. Obviously Freedom is selective in this regard and unmindful or uncaring of the consequences this type of action could produce.
In the past I’ve helped the Freedom Recreation Committee by volunteering my time at Freedom Field Day – which my family did not attend this year. My husband accepted the position of Acting Road Commissioner briefly when the elected Commissioner resigned. He has, in fact, been asked numerous times to run for the position. Unfortunately, those days are behind us. We are Freedom residents, but we are not members of the community. My husband and I have no respect nor desire to help a town that will not offer any in return.
November 13, 2009
Beaver Ridge Wind Plant and taxes
From The Morning Sentinel, Sunday, January 30, 2011
The text is below, or you can read it at the source via the link:
FREEDOM — The town faces a $1.4-million question: How does it assign value to a commercial wind farm that is different from any other in Maine?
Wind project developer Beaver Ridge Wind LLC says it overpaid about $14,000 in property taxes in 2010 because assessors overstated the value of its land.
In the first known request of its kind by a wind developer in the state, the company — owned by Patriot Renewables, of Quincy, Mass., in partnership with Maine’s MIRSAP LLC — has asked that its property with three turbines be valued at about $9.43 million, nearly $1.4 million less than its current assessed value.
Assessing a wind farm, however, is a difficult task with many variables, those involved with the effort said.
“My goal was to establish the correct assessed value for the project,” said Todd Presson, chief operating officer of Patriot Renewables. “We want to be treated like everyone else.”
The company is not requesting reimbursement, however, for what it believes it overpaid in 2010 taxes. If its request is granted, the change would occur in 2011, when about $14,000 less in property tax from the project — if all other variables stayed the same — would be figured into the town’s budget.
“They’re not requesting any money, any check. If we award them an abatement, they will give that money to the town for the year 2010, but they want to be appraised at $9,432,000 for the 2011 year and thereafter,” Selectwoman Carol Richardson said.
The selectmen also act as the assessors for the town’s approximately 630 residents.
“We didn’t want to put (the town) in a bind, so my main goal is to have the value adjusted going forward, to the correct value,” Presson said.
There is still a question of how much the property, with its 262-foot-tall steel towers, is worth.
That’s why selectmen voted Monday night for assessor Jackie Robbins to appraise the property and present them with a value in the coming weeks, Selectman Ron Price said. Price abstained from voting Monday because he leases his property to the developer.
Selectmen will then decide whether to grant the abatement request.
“All I want is to make sure everybody’s treated fairly,” Selectman Clint Spaulding said.
“These are not easy projects to value. There are millions of dollars involved,” said Mike Rogers, supervisor of municipal services at the property tax division of Maine Revenue Services.
Because there are just five currently-operating commercial wind farms in Maine, and they are all different, it’s impractical to judge value based on other sites, Rogers said. The best way to determine the value of a wind farm is to determine how much it cost to build.
That’s what Beaver Ridge Wind LLC did, Presson said. When the company added up how much everything cost — including installing the turbines, constructing the site, building roads, installing underground wires and financing the project — the total amounted to about $9.43 million.
While the town agreed to that number in 2009, selectmen increased the assessed value to $10.8 million in 2010.
When he got the notice of the $1.4 million increase, “It was a shock,” Presson said. Usually wind projects depreciate in value over time, he said.
Richardson said she used a formula, financial information provided by the developer and national property assessment guidelines to reach the $10.8 million amount.
“I took the middle price of what they said wind power was going for. I didn’t take the high price, and I didn’t take the low price; I took the middle price to be fair,” Richardson said.
“If it’s a mistake, then it’s an honest mistake. When you assess property you don’t assess property to what you paid for it; you use a formula. I worked very hard trying to come up with a formula for the wind power,” she said.
One of the main reasons Freedom residents voted for the construction of the wind project was because they believed it would lower their taxes, Richardson said.
By itself, the project added to the tax base, but other items — such as the municipal budget and school district budget — have increased, leaving residents with no net tax relief.
“The citizens of Freedom voted for the wind power to come in for lower taxes, and I’m afraid it’s going to upset them if now (the developers) want the valuation lowered more than what they sent out in all their mailings to how much (residents) would save,” she said.
In its first estimations, Beaver Ridge Wind put out high numbers, Presson said. The final costs were slightly less than first projected.
The company also paid to build the transmission lines, Presson said, but it does not own them — Central Maine Power does — so they should not be included as part of the assessed value.