FALMOUTH – They voted to shut the turbines off, then less than an hour later, they voted to leave them on.
In the fourth and final night of town meeting, members voted in favor of Article 23, a nonbinding petitioner article to shut off the town’s electricity-generating Wind 1 and Wind 2 turbines until November. About 45 minutes later, when Article 27 – a nonbinding petitioner article in favor of supporting the board of selectmen’s plan to mitigate abutter complaints about the turbines – came to the floor, they voted in favor of it.
“I would like to be quite honest, for those of you who voted for the previous article on the turbine and voted for this article, I would be very interested (to hear your logic) after the meeting,” said Town Moderator David Vieira after Article 27 passed.
Both articles are nonbinding – which means that selectmen are not required to adhere by the decision – so the contradictory articles are both valid, Vieira said.
When asked about his thoughts on Article 27’s passing, Malcolm Donald, a wind-turbine opponent, threw up his hands.
“I’m at a loss,” he said outside the Lawrence School Auditorium Thursday night.
When the Wind 1 turbine was operational, some abutters complained the 1.65-megawatt turbine, located at the town’s wastewater treatment plant, caused health problems such as migraines and vertigo. Wind 2 is also at the wastewater treatment plant, but farther from Blacksmith Shop Road.
Town meeting member Linda Tobey said she was disheartened when she heard fellow member Katheryn Elder and others say on Wednesday that selectmen had refused to allow wind opponents to speak at some of the board’s meetings since November.
“When I heard them get up last night and heard them say that they went to selectmen meetings and weren’t allowed to speak, I was appalled,” Tobey said Thursday night. “I have lost faith in our selectmen that they are actually going to do what they say, because they didn’t the last time.”
Advocates against the turbines struck a deal with selectmen in November, when the board agreed to shut down Wind 1 and temporarily operate Wind 2 during a testing phase.
Wind 2’s operation, which started in February, set out to test the reported effects on abutters in a 60-day trial. In its first 30 days, the turbine was spun without any curtailment. In the second 30 days, it adhered to the same restrictions the selectmen put on Wind 1 in February 2011, which included shutting down the turbine when wind speeds reach 23 mph.
A statement of principles detailing mitigation plans that selectmen accepted on Monday said the board intends to address abutters’ concerns with actions including operating Wind 1 at 10 meters per second from April 17 to May 15. From May 15 to June 15, they would shut off both turbines between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
The plan would be responsive to Falmouth’s need to generate $624,000 in electricity necessary to cover operating costs in the next fiscal year, said Assistant Town Manager Heather Harper during a presentation to town meeting members.
During her presentation, Harper also pointed at turbine opponents for engaging in what she called intimidating rhetoric that vilifies the town.
“There was a complete and total breakdown of communication on both sides,” Harper said. “I came to a point when I became very insecure for my safety based on communications I received.”
Anastasia Karplus, vice chairwoman of Falmouth’s energy committee, insisted that despite what wind opponents said, the turbines were constructed after a long process that informed residents every step of the way.
“There were two public information meetings held between 2004 and 2009; this was a process that took years,” Karplus said. She added that letters were also repeatedly sent to abutters.
One man shouted “Now my kids can sleep at night, thank you!” and some women supporting Article 23 wept with joy as they left town meeting after the article passed.
But they left before the debate over Article 27.
Standing in support of the article, Wastewater Superintendent Gerald Potamis encouraged resident involvement in mitigation options rather than shut them down, which could cost the town thousands.
Selectman Brent Putnam spoke out against Article 27, arguing that passing the article directly contradicting one passed during the same town meeting would create a “schizophrenic” town meeting.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding