FALMOUTH – Debate over a nonbinding article that would ask selectmen to shut down the town’s municipal wind turbines went late into the night Monday as proponents argued the turbines jeopardize abutters’ health while opponents said the act could prove financially disastrous.
The first night of town meeting adjourned at 11:30 p.m. with no decision achieved on the thorny issue, one of several abutter issues on the 49-article warrant.
Article 9, the headline-dominating turbine proposal, originally called on the town to shut down Wind 1, which began spinning at the town wastewater treatment facility last year. It also sought a delay in operation of Wind 2 until a study proves the turbines do not harm abutters.
However, language was amended so that operation could continue after “mitigation options are fully explored and the existence of injurious conditions upon nearby residents can be qualified.”
Some abutters have long complained that the 1.65-megawatt Wind 1 turbine causes negative health effects, including migraines and vertigo.
A yes vote on the nonbinding article would leave in selectmen’s hands the decision to adopt it, alter it or ignore it.
“He said he was tired because of the turbines near his house,” Drummey said. “All last winter my son had been sleeping with blankets on the floor” because he said the turbines shook his walls.
Mary Pat Flynn, chairwoman of the selectmen, pointed out that the board has made attempts to mitigate harm abutters say the turbines cause, such as a February decision to shut down Wind 1 when wind speeds reach about 23 mph. Assistant Town Manager Heather Harper has said that decision costs Falmouth an estimated $350,000 in revenue per year.
Falmouth’s assistant wastewater superintendent estimated a long-term shutdown of the turbines would cost the town about $11 million in back grants, renewable energy credits and other costs.
Debate was still in progress on that article at adjournment and will resume tonight.
Article 7, an initiative to place several zoning bylaws on sober living houses in Falmouth, was also fraught with concern from abutters worried about quality of life. Town meeting members ultimately voted it down, but not without heated debate beforehand.
“Within a month, there were (several) serious drinking-related felonies associated with one sober house,” said Ed Dewitt, a Precinct 1 town meeting member.
The article grew out of a rash of crimes that occurred from late December to early January from people associated with one sober living house on Locust Street.
On Dec. 20 one current and one former resident of the house allegedly committed a violent robbery on a Burger King employee depositing money at a nearby bank.
On Jan. 2, a former resident and another man allegedly broke into and robbed a local convenience store. Falmouth police said the two were visibly intoxicated when they were arrested.
Less than two weeks later police arrested yet another sober house resident after they found him wandering around the parking lot of a local auto body shop while intoxicated.
But several officials and town meeting members argued that the bylaw included difficult-to-enforce stipulations and sections that could violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“We’re not interested in having a bylaw that is going to get thrown out in court, said Ralph Herbst, chairman of the planning board.
Town meeting continues tonight at 7 at the Lawrence School.
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