2010-03-11 / Letters to the Editor

Let Jamestowners chart their own course

I remain baffled by the Jamestown Town Council’s decision to ignore the Wind Committee’s recommendations, and abandon Ft. Getty as a site for a second turbine. One would think that the council, after so few months on the job, would have given greater deference to a committee that had put so many years into its analysis.

I am not surprised at all by committee member Wineberg’s resignation from all of his volunteer positions. Why should he bother? If the work of other committees will be dismissed so summarily, why should any of them bother?

The three reasons offered by the council for its decision to pull the plug – protecting the “sky view,” commissioning another study and the council’s own “read” on the next financial Town meeting – just don’t add up. I am left to wonder whether the three members who drove its decision, council members Schnack, Bowen and Murphy, have some other agenda that they have not yet chosen to share

Council member Murphy championed the protection of what he perceived as the currently unobstructed “sky view” available in West Reach. I don’t know where he is looking, but I live in West Ferry, and the view from my porch, such that it is, is entirely of Ft. Getty. It is a view that gives me considerable pleasure, but I would not call it unobstructed. In the foreground, the “busy-ness” of the boat yard and the masts of sailboats merge into the clutter of Ft. Getty. Across the bay, the view is interrupted by the URI Bay Campus and the radio towers of Tower Hill, and, in less than two years, will include wind turbines spinning slowly in Narragansett and North Kingstown.

Still, I consider myself fortunate to be able to look out my window and to see what I can see. The current uses all existed long before I moved to the neighborhood, and to me, the activity of Dutch Harbor adds to its charm. A turbine would fit in comfortably.

When people look out over a viewscape they enjoy every day, the activities taking place within or related to the structures they see are never far from their minds. I take comfort that the West Ferry views are dominated by URI’s research vessel, the Bay campus and a group of seasonal users who are here to enjoy the island. The turbine, and the message it will implicitly convey, would fit in harmoniously and would add a dynamic focal point.

Next, the council suggested that its decision should await the results of the next yet-to-belaunched Ft. Getty study. This is just death by over analysis. No prior study has proposed any use of the property other than some variation of current uses, adding, at times, enhanced sailing facilities or facilities for greater day use. All of these would be perfectly compatible with a turbine. If there are any new uses that no study before has suggested that would require a building density too extensive to allow for the turbine and required buffer, I don’t want to know about them.

If the camping use is to continue, and there is a turbine, perhaps some of those on the waiting list would drop off because they don’t want to hear the turbine. If this were to happen, those names would be offset by wind advocates who hear of, and then specifically choose, Ft. Getty for the turbine.

Lastly, using a form of circular logic that made me wince, the council suggested that they would not want there to be discussion of the two turbine option in the upcoming financial town meeting because they did not expect that the voters would approve it. What could possibly have led them to this conclusion? I will admit that I am an “in my back yard” on this project, but I predict widespread support for the financing similar to that which allowed for the acquisition of the golf course, maybe even that which followed the tongue-incheek motion to secede from R.I. Jamestowners like to chart their own course. We are frugal, to be sure, but we appear to be willing to commit to expenditures if we know that they will benefit future generations.

Of course, these are just one citizen’s predictions, but even if I am wrong, I can say without equivocation that Jamestowners like to have all options available to them. I suspect that if the council is right about the objections it raised, we would already have seen those affected marching with their pitchforks down Narragansett Avenue. If for some reason these people were asleep at the switch, and the council has pointed out issues that had not occurred to them, give them all of their options and let them voice their own concerns at the financial town meeting.
Eric Archer

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