FALMOUTH – Falmouth would ban wind turbines that produce more than 200 kilowatts of electricity – less than a quarter of what the two town-owned turbines each produce now – under a proposed bylaw up for public discussion at the planning board tonight.
The public hearing on the draft bylaw, starting at 7 p.m. at Falmouth Town Hall, comes amid a flurry of activity among town panels regarding Falmouth’s turbines.
Turbine mitigation efforts over the past month include the formation of a panel charged with exploring the town’s options and the board of health’s examination of testimony about alleged health effects.
The bylaw would ban wind turbines that produce more than 200 kilowatts of power, a drastic cut from Falmouth’s two 1.65-megawatt turbines – known as “Wind 1” and “Wind 2—” at the wastewater treatment plant on Blacksmith Shop Road.
One megawatt equals 1,000 kilowatts.
Turbines larger than 200 kilowatts already operating in Falmouth could remain if the board passes the bylaw and town meeting subsequently approves it, but the rule would prevent developers from expanding the amount of electricity they produce right now, Town Planner Brian Currie said.
Falmouth’s current regulations, which refer to turbines as “wind mills,” place no limit on electricity production.
The bylaw also stipulates that turbines must power the property on which they are located as a primary service. That would prohibit turbines erected for the purpose of selling electricity to outside entities.
The planning board began work on the proposed bylaw about six months ago, Currie said.
Tonight’s hearing falls less than a week after one of the town’s two municipal turbines went back online on Friday. The town and state Department of Environmental Protection had agreed to shut it off for 30 days following a DEP study that concluded it exceeded nighttime noise limits.
Richard Latimer, a member of the planning board, said the bylaw would prevent more turbines such as the two on Blacksmith Shop Road from being built in town.
The town would not be in the business of “prohibiting” turbines, Latimer said. “My approach is, it is a learning process and the only way we can keep on learning is to permit them.”
The board of health has been reviewing written testimony from people who live and/or work near Falmouth’s two municipal turbines and a privately owned turbine nearby.
Of 55 people who submitted testimony about health effects, 40 said they suffered health problems from the turbines and 15 reported they had no adverse side effects, according to a Times count. The complaint farthest away was from a resident who lives just under four miles from the wastewater treatment facility.
Many people who testified the turbines cause health problems listed symptoms such as lost sleep, headaches and heightened blood pressure. Many insisted the turbines are cataclysmic to their well-being.
“We have been dealing with sleep deprivation, extreme anxiety and weight loss because the safe haven of our home has been destroyed,” wrote Brian and Kathryn Elder, who live about 226 feet from the wastewater treatment plant.
Dr. Natalie Chambers, a family practice physician in North Falmouth, wrote that a patient who lives near the turbine owned by Webb Research Corp. at Falmouth Technology Park attempted suicide on April 12.
“This patient has been under my care for several health complaints attributed to living near the turbine,” Chambers wrote. The abutter was admitted to Falmouth Hospital and stayed in the intensive care unit for five days, she wrote.
Several people said they had lost their appetites and dropped weight, but Annie Hart Cool, who lives just over 1,610 feet from the wastewater treatment plant, wrote that she had gained 40 pounds since the turbines started spinning two years ago.
Several of those who submitted testimony said they would list their symptoms only if they remained confidential.
The 15 people who wrote to the board that the turbines caused them no negative health effects include those who live and work near the turbines.
The “swooshing” noise of the turbines lasts for periods of less than a minute and is less invasive than sounds such as dirt bikes and motorized garden tools, wrote Paul Lorusso, who lives about 4,070 feet from the wastewater treatment plant.
“I have serious problems with people suggesting they have health issues with turbines,” Lorusso wrote. He said that several of the same people reporting health problems associated with the turbines also lobbied against a pipeline that would take liquid waste from Falmouth High School to the wastewater treatment plant.
“Most of these people seem to always want to fight; they appear empowered by yelling and screaming,” Lorusso wrote. Turbines are “not an inconvenience or a battle cry for opponents at large, the types of individuals who fight everything – frankly, because some of them have too much time on their hands.”
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