Poor show by MVC on wind turbines

To the Editor:

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s (MVC) so-called public hearing for feedback on the draft of the wind energy plan held October 4, was only a pretense. The MVC’s website said the “Commission invites comments on the draft plan.” But as soon as the meeting was opened to public comment, Douglas Sederholm, who directed the meeting, said the MVC had received a two and a half page letter from me, but he would not read it. It certainly was not for lack of time, for he joked that there wasn’t a time pressure “because Gary and Paul are the only ones who want to say anything from the public…” and later commented, “we’ve had more time than we usually do.”

Not a word of my letter was read, perhaps because it called attention to serious problems in the draft – a work of considerable labor, in which Mr. Sederholm “played an important role… as the chairman of the wind energy plan task force work group that crafted the plan” (“MVC concludes wind energy plan hearing,” October 11). My letter was censored from public ears and initially even from public eyes. Though Mr. Sederholm said that my letter was part of the public record, he said it “is available for any commissioner who wishes to peruse it.” Available only for commissioners? And only those commissioners who feel like reading it? And not to be read in a public hearing?

Anyone can judge the disparity of attention given by the commissioners by watching the video on MVTV and contrasting the immediate (and later) rejection of reading any of my comments with the freedom of expression and encouragement given to the three proponents of Vineyard turbines.

Commendably, Mark London responded to the late evening invitation: “Anyone else from the public who would like to say anything? This is a public hearing on the wind energy plan for Dukes County, and we’d like to get whatever public input we can” by raising his hand on my behalf. (Thank you, Mr. London!) He said, “Barbara Schlesinger had asked that we would read at least part of her letter. [No one seconded that idea.] If we’re not going to do that, we’ll have it available on the website… with today’s date on the calendar … for anyone in the audience, members of the public … anyone watching …” He later gave copies of my letter to the press. Bravo.

I urge readers to look for the letter on the MVC website so you can read objectives and performance standards that will seriously affect both residents and tourism. Even though the wind energy plan speaks loftily about the beauty and value of tourism of Martha’s Vineyard and the need to protect these, it goes on to include language that can ruin the Island community if turbines are built. The wind energy plan finds your financial detriment acceptable, light and shadows racing across your living room walls acceptable, sound disturbances acceptable, declining property values acceptable (and not even to be considered). This is all in the plan. The only questionable aspects are how much of each negative effect are reasonable or significant and who will decide for you what is a reasonable disturbance upon you.

Thus, I entreated in the very first paragraph of my letter: “If your attention gets no further than this paragraph, please take to heart that this draft of the wind energy plan should not move forward one inch without clear and strong protections for neighbors’ health and for the use, enjoyment, and value of their property.” And that, I suspect, is part of what Mr. Sederholm did not want the public to hear. For if the wind industry is held accountable for these protections for people’s health and property, its vision unravels.

As an example of concern, the overall objective of the plan in section 8.2.2 states: “Development of wind turbines, as with other types of land uses, should not be at the unreasonable financial detriment of other landowners.”

My letters asks: “How is it possible that the word ‘unreasonable’ is included in the overall objective? How can there be any financial detriment imposed on other landowners that is not compensated? How is any detriment ‘reasonable’? Who decides what is reasonable or unreasonable?”

For the record, Mr. Sederholm did not summarize my letter. His total summary was saying that I had objections (which would remain undisclosed) to three specific sections, and he incorrectly stated that I was “concerned that the plan does not specifically identify performance standards to address [the Overall Objective of 8.2.2].” Clearly, (as seen in my questions above), I objected to the overall objective itself (and later in the letter said: “For a start, delete ‘unreasonable’”), but the inverted summary he offered made it sound as if I were concerned how to implement the very objective I wanted changed. For a true representation, my comment could have been read in 17 seconds, not a burden to any meeting or person. Nevertheless, only wind supporters gave commentary in this public hearing.

Barbara Schlesinger

Chilmark and Malvern, Pennsylvania