A group of 30 residents filed a noise complaint over the Notus Clean Energy wind turbine in Falmouth Technology Park last month, which is being investigated by the Falmouth Building Commissioner, and will soon have their complaint heard before the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals.
Todd A. Drummey of Blacksmith Shop Road and other residents signed the petition stating that the turbine has caused “an undue interference with the use and enjoyment of the nearby residential properties.” That language is pulled directly from the special permit issued by the board of appeals in 2008, which allowed the construction of the turbine.
The permit also includes a very specific and technical process to follow when the town receives an official complaint. Under the permit, the Notus Clean Energy turbine should not increase the ambient noise levels greater than six decibels, should not create a “pure tone,” and should not generate “infrasonic sound” greater than six decibels. The technical terms referenced in the permit are defined as “pure tone shall mean the sound pressure level, at any given octave band center frequency, that exceeds the levels of the two adjacent octave bands by three or more decibels or the equivalent by use of the more detailed measurements of 1/3 octave band and narrowband methods.
“Infrasonic sound shall mean the sound pressure leve with frequency below 20 Hertz.”
The technical nature of the turbine sound measurements requires a high level of knowledge of sound and sophisticated measuring equipment. “That’s something that we don’t have the equipment or the expertise to measure in this department,” said Building and Zoning Commissioner Eladio R. Gore, who is also the town’s zoning enforcement officer. He said his first step in enforcement would be to contact the owner of the turbine, and have them respond to the complaint. When reached by phone yesterday afternoon, Daniel H. Webb, the owner of Notus Clean Energy, said, “I have no comment.” Mr. Gore said that a technical sound expert would have to measure and interpret the results of a sound study, similar to what was done at the town-owned turbine earlier this year. The town paid for a sound study, while the nearby residents paid for a separate study. The town said the turbine was within acceptable sound limits, but the other expert said the turbine was not in compliance.
“It’s going to take some time to work out,” Mr. Gore said on Wednesday. “Ultimately this matter will probably end up in the zoning board of appeals and even in court.”
Board of appeals Administrator Sari D, Budrow said yesterday that the board will likely hear the complaint in the first week of January, but a hearing date has not yet been set.
Board of appeals Chairman Matthew J. McNamara has in the past cited the Notus Clean Energy special permit as an unusual circumstance where the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals was working with an outdated bylaw, and imposed conditions that do not exist within the bylaw.
Notus Clean Energy was a “willing applicant,” Mr. McNamara has said, and agreed to conditions that went beyond what was written in the bylaw.
The complaint also includes some directions for identifying the worst sound disturbances for the neighbors.
“We also believe that the disturbance from the turbine is heavily influenced by both wind speed and direction. The disturbance at any one residence is worse when up or down wind from the turbine, and wind speeds are moderate or higher,” the complaint reads.
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