Richard Elrick's letter of May 16 concerning the wind turbine issue in Harwich is troublesome, to say the least.
Democracy in action can be frustrating. Those who think that they are on the losing side often feel inclined to resort to using descriptors that are either meaningless, erroneous or insulting. I'm sure that most of us have been guilty of the same offense, but his letter is so blatant that a rebuttal is needed. These objectionable descriptors in quotes below are the accusations of Mr. Elrick that I will attempt to refute.
"Misinformed rejection." I don't know if Mr. Elrick was present at town meeting, but I felt that the Harwich Neighborhood Alliance was well-informed. There are two sides to every issue, and that group indeed had facts galore.
"Selfish and ignorant" voters. There is nothing selfish about promoting one's own interests. Ignorant? Hardly. They understood the need for alternative sources of energy, but took issue with the inappropriate location of these very large turbines.
"Unfounded" fears. The Alliance members did their homework. They were able to quote evidence that suggests that many of their fears are legitimate. At a recent wind energy informational meeting in Harwich, Patrick Quinlan, associate director with the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at UMass-Amherst, was objective enough to admit that there are many issues on which the jury is still out.
"Elitist" voters. Certainly Mr. Elrick must have had his tongue in cheek for this one. The residents at town meeting were concerned ordinary folk. Luckily for them, there were enough of them in attendance at the meeting, just as there were enough teachers and firefighters to promote their causes. "Elitist"? No! Concerned and interested? Yes!
"Aesthetic" reasons. Per Webster's dictionary the definition of aesthetic is "sensitive to art and beauty," or words to that effect. This issue had nothing to do with beauty. It had to do with the presence of a rotating turbine, 400 feet in height, within a quarter of a mile from a residential area; an issue of great concern from many points of view (health being a major one), but aesthetics was not one of them.
"Small" number of residents. The fact that the relevant articles were turned down by a large margin indicates to me that many residents were opposed to this project. Every citizen of Harwich is invited to attend town meeting. Many of those with a concern about these turbines went. Perhaps others did not care about this issue, or they would have shown up. That's how town meetings work.
I suspect that most, if not all, of the residents who voted against the turbines, agree with Mr. Elrick that the Gulf oil spill is a disaster. But to then draw the conclusion that the way to counter this is to place 400-feet wind turbines in residential areas stretches the point, and defies common sense. An oil spill disaster of this magnitude might have been avoided with better impartial oversight and foresight.
As treasurer of Clean Power Now, Mr. Elrick's response is disingenuous. In reading the mission statement of that organization one sees that it is a —¦grassroots organization"¦" and that its —¦ immediate focus is to increase citizen support of offshore wind power in Nantucket Sound." Well, the Harwich Neighborhood Alliance is also a grassroots organization; but the members happen to oppose 400-foot on-shore wind turbines in residential neighborhoods. I suspect that they too might agree with locating large turbines offshore.
Perhaps Mr. Elrick should spend less time criticizing the success of a dedicated group of people, and instead initiate an effort to put up 400-foot wind turbines in his neighborhood, 1300 feet from his house. In fact, I know of a great group that could help him set up a successful organization. They might even be an ally to help him promote off-shore wind power. He would have my support as well. But something tells me that the grass he is rooting for will not be in his back yard.
Peter de Bakker is a member of the Harwich Planning Board, but is writing this as a private citizen.