The Falmouth Zoning Board heard a challenge earlier this month on the existence of a 1.65-megawatt town-owned wind turbine which produces electricity for the Falmouth Wastewater Treatment Facility on Blacksmith Shop Road.
The turbine, which, along with another one that is currently being erected, have been built in stages since 2002 and have met with overwhelming voter approval. However, the appellants at this month’s meeting, Neil and Elizabeth Andersen of Blacksmith Shop Road, argued that the town had not been following its own laws for putting up the turbines. The Andersens, who live about 1,700 feet from the wind energy facility, also said they were annoyed by the noise that the turbine generated.
The Andersen’s lawyer, J. Allen Watt, asked for a a cease and desist order on the turbines’ operation. Watt said that the town’s zoning laws do not include special provisions about municipal buildings like fire stations or garages, but that turbines have to get special permits from the town Board of Appeals in order to begin construction, and the existing facility had not.
Zoning Commissioner Eladio Gore said that municipal buildings are given exemptions from needing such permits. And because the turbines were built specifically for the Wastewater Treatment Facility and do not sell any excess energy on the open market, that makes the turbines’ use strictly municipal.
Town Counsel Frank Duffy added that the Andersens and other abutters had 30 days from the issuance of the building permit to appeal it, though they did not until 14 months afterwards. According to Mr. Duffy, they had ample time to recognize that the project was going to be underway, and notifications were in fact sent out to the home owners.
The Board recessed the meeting until January 20, when they will continue the hearing.
Massachusetts has noise limits which state that noise structures cannot exceed 10 decibels above than whatever the local ambient noise is – with most areas in the town having around 29 decibels. A town-sponsored study that was released in late September showed that while the homes on the surrounding streets do receive some noise from the turbines, it doesn’t exceed the 10 decibel limit.
Wind turbines are a controversial subject for Cape residents, most recently with town officials in Harwich and Wellfleet outright rejecting the idea of constructing turbines after residents banded together to fight them.
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