FALMOUTH – There is interest in using a consensus-building process to create a new zoning bylaw for wind turbines in Falmouth.
So says a consultant hired to analyze the issues and report back to the town, which she did Monday night during a joint meeting of the planning board and the board of selectmen.
“I do recommend going forward with a consensus-building process,” said Edith Netter, a Waltham attorney whose firm specializes in finding common ground in seemingly intractable situations.
After listening to Netter’s presentation and discussing it among themselves, members of each board expressed confidence in bringing the various stakeholders together in such a process. The next step is for Netter to draft a Request for Proposals, or RFP, in search of firms willing to facilitate the consensus-building. The planning board is scheduled to meet Aug. 30 to discuss a possible warrant article to fund the process. If put forward, that article would be on the warrant for the annual Town Meeting Nov. 7.
“This is something that’s very important to the town,” said Ralph Herbst, chairman of the planning board.
This spring Town Meeting voted to implement a one-year moratorium on new wind turbines while the town gathered more information on the controversial issue. Falmouth is already trying to decide what to do about the Wind 1 turbine at the town’s wastewater treatment facility as well as Wind 2, which is expected to come online in the next few months.
Netter and both boards emphasized that crafting a new zoning bylaw for future wind turbines is a separate issue from the problems of the existing turbines. Netter summarized some of the hard feelings neighbors have about those turbines but said she only did so in the context of how those feelings affected people’s willingness to work together on a new bylaw.
Herbst noted that, despite obvious differences in size, cost and power output, Falmouth’s current bylaws still refer to “windmills” and not “wind turbines.”
“That’s just how far away we are from where we need to be,” he said.
Netter offered some examples of what the consensus-building process might look like but said the real key is bringing as many parties together to discuss openly and honestly.
“People metaphorically roll up their sleeves and work together,” said Netter, who said real discussion would prompt a set of principles and that those principles could guide the drafting of a new zoning bylaw.
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