FALMOUTH – Constructing wind turbines in residential neighborhoods is a controversial topic in Falmouth but annual Town Meeting had little trouble discussing the issue Monday night.
By a voice vote, Town Meeting Members quickly approved Article 8 by the required two-thirds majority. The article places a moratorium on permits for windmills until May 1 of 2012.
The article, which had the support of the planning board, allows that board time to update its current regulations, which were adopted in 1981. Specifically, it allows the planning board time to study noise, vibration, shadow and other issues associated with turbines located close to residential neighborhoods.
There was some discussion about the article prior to voting but no back-and-forth debate. Selectwoman Mary Pat Flynn, who also serves as vice-chairwoman of the Barnstable County Commissioners, updated Town Meeting on regional efforts to regulate turbines by the Cape Cod Commission. She said hearings on the proposed regulations were set to begin mid-April and urged residents to attend.
Kathy Driscoll of Precinct 7 asked whether or not the moratorium would set a precedent but was told that moratoria, while infrequent, had been placed by Falmouth in the past.
Town Meeting’s quick work on Article 8 is set against the backdrop of the controversy surrounding Wind 1, the wind turbine constructed at the Falmouth Wastewater Treatment Facility. For months neighbors of the Blacksmith Shop Road facility have complained of headaches, lack of sleep and other issues which they say are caused by the turbine. On March 21, six of those residents filed suit in Barnstable Superior Court arguing that the zoning board should have overturned a decision by the town’s building commissioner that, as a municipal use, the turbine did not require a special permit.
In late February selectmen ordered the turbine stopped when wind speeds exceed 10 meters per second.
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