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Turbine abutters refuse to ‘build consensus’

Neighbors of Falmouth’s town-owned wind turbines balked at the town’s compromise in turbine operation and refused to participate in a consensus-building process until they stop spinning.

Reading a letter he wrote to selectmen at their Monday night meeting, Mark Cool, an abutter to the turbines, said the board’s vote two weeks ago in favor of shutting off one of Falmouth’s two 1.65-megawatt turbines at the wastewater treatment plant on Blacksmith Shop Road 12 hours each day falls short of “a good-faith effort toward meaningful dialogue.

“They’re already on record of saying that by doing this 12 hours on and 12 hours off, they’ve met a compromise,” Cool said Tuesday. “Do you actually compromise or negotiate with one’s well-being or one’s health?”

Cool’s letter represents the stance of more than 70 neighbors in 40 households near the turbines who say they cause health issues including vertigo and headaches, he said.

Next week, a group of town officials, residents and other stakeholders begin regular meetings to gauge opinions and possible solutions to problems associated with the turbines. On May 30, the Consensus Building Institute – a Cambridge-based firm that Falmouth hired to mediate talks – is scheduled to begin nominating people to serve on a committee responsible for making recommendations for solutions to selectmen.

Selectmen’s curtailment of the “Wind 1” turbine between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. each day and their recent agreement with the state Department of Environmental Protection to turn it off completely for 30 days – following the release of a sound study that concludes Wind 1 exceeds noise levels appropriate for residential neighborhoods at night – demonstrate their commitment to abutters, said Selectman Kevin Murphy, chairman of the board, on Tuesday.

“The board believes that is a good-faith gesture and we hope the neighbors participate (in consensus building talks),” Murphy said. “But the exercises will move forward with or without the neighbors.”

Murphy added that five spots on the committee that are reserved for people negatively affected by the turbines will remain open to them throughout the consensus-building process in case they change their minds.

Board of selectmen Vice Chairman Brent Putnam said he recognizes why turbine opponents are boycotting the talks.

“I sympathize with them and I understand their reasons for doing it,” Putnam said Tuesday.

The turbine foes attempted to compromise on their demand that both turbines be shut down throughout the duration of the consensus-building meetings, but negotiations broke down, said Todd Drummey, one of the abutters not participating in talks.

Drummey said a few weeks ago, after hearing the town’s offer of powering off the turbine half of each day, abutters said they would join consensus talks if the town also limited blade speeds to 23 mph. But the selectmen, through a Consensus Building Institute official, never agreed to the stipulation.

“We probably would have been able to move forward on that” agreement, Drummey said. “It’s been a very difficult decision for the neighbors.”

Agreeing with Murphy, Falmouth Wastewater Superintendent Gerald Potamis, who oversees the turbines, said the town already made a number of concessions to turbine abutters.

“The town actually went from a three- to four-hour shutdown to a 12-hour shutdown,” Potamis said Tuesday. “It acknowledges the concerns residents had.”