By Carol McCracken
Since John Rastl, 61, and his wife, Judith, retired to the Hill five years ago, their lives have been anything but retiring. They live at the Hill’s Promenade Towers where John is the treasurer of the Board of Directors for the 80 unit condominium.
Recently John has emerged as one of several spokespersons for the Board over health and safety issues on the Hill concerning a proposed project close to them. The School Department announced its intention to erect a 100-foot wind meter on the nearby East End Community School property. This move could lead to the eventual erection of a 250-foot wind turbine in the same site. Because of a 35 ft. height zoning restriction there, the spot must be rezoned to accommodate the huge difference in height. By comparison, the historic Observatory located on Congress Street near North Street is 65 ft. in height. Rastl says he would accept a tower that fits within the 35 ft. height limit on the Hill.
The erection of the wind meter has been viewed as both an educational tool for students at the East End Community School as well as functional for the green-built school. The towers’ location near the Loring Circle overlooking Rt. 295 would signal to drivers that Portland is a green city.
Rastl, who is a retired Air Force Colonel, began researching the matter on-line and learned there are studies that say that “wind turbines should not be in close proximity to people – either their homes or work. We share the goal of green and clean, but just not the location of this wind turbine. It’s simply too close to us, the School, Bay View Heights and the Island View Apartments,” said John. He’d like to see the towers erected more than a mile away from populated areas and he doesn’t see any place on the Hill that meets that condition. (He suggestedd that Cape Elilzabeth would be a better locale becuase it is more rural). The Towers’ Board recently voted 7 – 0 in opposition to the erection of the 100-foot wind meter.
A New York physician who is writing a book on the subject claims that people too close to a wind turbine may develop headaches, dizziness, nausea, insomnia and other health problems which she calls “wind turbine syndrome.” Her web page is: www.windturbinesyndrome.com Rastl also expressed safety concerns over”ice throw” which occurs when ice from the blades is hurled into the air and poses threats to buildings or people in its path.
A vote on the wind tower by the planning board scheduled for this Tuesday, January 27 has been removed from the agenda of the planning board at the request of the School Department. In the interim, the Department is planning a series of neighborhood meetings on the subject. “I don’t think these meetings will help. They’ll just get more people alarmed,” said John. Doug Sherwood, facilities director for the Portland Public Schools could not be reached for comment in time for this article.
The Rastls moved into their Eastern Promenade penthouse (complete with outstanding views) condominium in 2004. Two years later, in 2006 condo owners were assessed an average of $40,000. each to redo the façade of the building because of structural problems. By 2008, condo owners had spent $4,000,000. to complete the task – including new windows. “We really like this area – the local restaurants and its so easy to walk to town, but we’d really like to start being retired,” said John laughing during a telephone interview.