Bristol couple seeks relief from turbine noise
It took Kenny and Amanda Alves a year to find their dream home.
When they happened upon 18 Hamlet Court, the native Bristolians knew it was the one.
"There was plenty of space to raise a family," Ms. Alves said. "And there was an in-law apartment, which we wanted for our parents, as a place they could come and live as they got older."
The couple bought the home out of foreclosure in 2009. It needed a little bit of work — Mr. Alves installed wood flooring, bought new appliances, painted and tiled the basement playroom.
"We love it here," Mr. Alves said. "We even talked to the neighbors, and they said it was a quiet neighborhood. It was the perfect setup."
That was until January 2012, when construction was complete on the new 110-foot wind turbine Joe Coelho Jr. constructed in the rear of his property at Safeway Auto. Located on Gooding Avenue, the business, an auto repair shop that also rents vehicles, does not abut the rear of the Alves' home, but comes pretty close. The turbine can be seen from the Alves' back deck.
"The noise from the turbine keeps us awake at night," Mr. Alves said. "We can't concentrate, we can't sleep. It's constant, and we're just looking for relief."
However, it doesn't seem like relief will come their way. Mr. Coelho followed all the rules and regulations when constructing the turbine in December 2011. Necessary applications were completed and requested variances were filed, said Town Administrator Tony Teixeira. Only one instance held up the permitting process: The initial proposal to install the turbine was delayed because the height variance was not properly advertised for a public hearing. The correct height variance request of 118 feet was then properly advertised.
"There were a lot of people there at the hearing," Mr. Alves recalled. "And we were told verbatim that it wouldn't be louder than an air conditioner. Yet, I run my air conditioner at night and (the wind turbine) drowns it out."
Mr. Coelho had been cooperative with the Alves, listening to their concerns and offered to rectify the problem when he could.
"I can't turn it off at night all the time, because instead of 5 to 10 years, it will take 15 to 20 years to realize the return (on the investment)," he said.
"I thought I was doing the right thing to help out the environment and sustain the business by putting it up. Now I'm not so sure. But what can I do? I did everything the right way."
Mr. Coelho's total investment amounts to $262,042. After realizing federal and state tax deductions, his total cost will be roughly $130,000.
"I have gone over there, walked in their house, been in their bedroom, and I just don't hear it as they do," he said.
But the Alves insist the noise from wind turbine is enough to prevent Amanda's father-in-law from moving in.
"We had guests over during Gabriella's baptism in February, and even they couldn't sleep," she said.
The noise output from the wind turbine is about 48.5 decibels, well within the requirements of a manufacturing zone, which Safeway is in. However, the town's noise ordinance stipulates that if sound travels across different zones, i.e. from business to residential, the sound generator must comply with all noise limits. In this case, Safeway Auto's wind turbine would not be able to exceed the decibel limit in a residential area.
The Alves have called the police to complain about the wind turbine noise 13 times since Feb. 5, 2012. The Bristol Police Department took a reading with its noise meter while at the Alves' home twice. Both times the reading came back below the limit for a residential area.
"We area measuring the noise the way the department was trained to measure noise," said Dep. Chief Steven Contente. "Industrial noise is a little bit different. Typically, with industrial noise, a specialist would have to come in with special equipment. We're not experts in industrial noise. We don't have the special equipment to do that."
Safeway Auto's wind turbine starts working from a low wind speed of 6.7 mph; its performance is optimal in wind speeds of 22.3 mph.
The couple was expected to present their complaint before the Town Council during the meeting Wednesday night.
"We want him to take it down," Mr. Alves said. "We were never notified it was going up and didn't know it until someone in our neighborhood told us."