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Falmouth wind turbine foes feeling stonewalled

FALMOUTH – A hearing to determine the fate of a wind turbine at the town’s wastewater facility has been postponed for the second time in four days.

Monday’s hearing was canceled because the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals did not give the required 48-hour notice when posting a public meeting, said appeals board member Dennis Murphy. The hearing had been originally scheduled for Jan. 20 but was continued to Monday to accommodate the board’s lawyer.

The town didn’t take into consideration that the state’s new Open Meeting Law does not allow town officials to count Saturdays as a day of notification, as they could under the old version, Murphy said.

“We just didn’t catch it,” he said.

Board members could not legally open Monday’s meeting, but Murphy said the board will meet Thursday to come up with a rescheduled hearing date. The date of the hearing will be announced Thursday during that meeting.

Residents who live near the 1.65-megawatt turbine in West Falmouth and say they are negatively affected by the turbine’s noise and vibrations are getting impatient.

“This is a debacle,” said Annie Hart Cool, who lives on Fire Tower Road. “It’s very unfortunate.”

The mistake was caught by the town’s attorney, Frank Duffy, after town hall had closed for the day, said zoning administrator Sari Budrow.

Budrow spent the weekend and all day Monday talking to the state attorney general’s office, which advised her on how to proceed without violating the Open Meeting Law.

Any board that meets on a Monday has to post its meeting by close of business on Thursday, said Town Clerk Michael Palmer, but the appeals board meeting was not posted until Friday morning.

It is up to the individual boards to make sure they comply with the Open Meeting Law, Palmer said, adding that no complaints have been filed against the board.

Several residents who live near the turbine, including Cool and her husband, have complained about health problems resulting from turbine noise, including dizziness, headaches and hearing loss. But the intent of the hearing is to address their claims that the town skirted its own bylaws by exempting itself from the special permit process.

Town officials claim a special permit was unnecessary because the turbine is for municipal use.

In addition to the board’s lack of adherence to the state’s Open Meeting Law, Cool said the members are making a mockery of the process in other ways as well.

The board usually meets at 6:30 p.m. Thursday nights. But Cool said the meetings have been changed to a different day at 4:30 p.m. to accommodate the board’s lawyer.

“Isn’t it interesting that we’re accommodating their attorney for a 4:30 p.m. meeting yet some of us work until 5 or 5:30 p.m.,” Cool said. “I think they’re strategically planning this for a time when some of the people who are affected the most can’t be there.”

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