FALMOUTH – Members of a panel formed to recommend options to mitigate abutter complaints about two town-owned turbines for a town meeting warrant can agree on one thing: They likely won’t meet their deadline.
All members of the Falmouth Wind Turbines Options Analysis Process said it’s unlikely they will be able to form their recommended options by the first week of September, the goal originally prescribed by the board of selectmen.
“When we first sat down at the table, we had high hopes that the group would have recommendations for the selectmen,” Todd Drummey, a panel member representing turbine abutters, said Tuesday morning. “I had hoped that we’d be farther along than we are.”
But the options analysis process has proven a rocky road since its inception.
For two years, homeowners living near the Wind 1 and Wind 2 turbines at the wastewater treatment on Blacksmith Shop Road have complained the machines cause headaches, vertigo and a host of other health problems.
In January, Falmouth’s selectmen announced they hired the Consensus Building Institute of Cambridge to form a group charged with forming a consensus of the best option to mitigate abutters’ concerns. CBI later conceded that the group of abutters, town officials and other representatives would not be able to form a consensus and would rather recommend options of possible solutions to selectmen.
When the process began in May, representatives of the group of people in about 40 nearby households said their participation in the talks would come only when both turbines were stopped and remained so through the process’ duration.
Three weeks after the group started meeting without the abutters, some abutters agreed they would participate when board of selectman Chairman Kevin Murphy and Town Manager Julian Suso agreed to set aside the statement of principles.
Although the group will likely not meet the September deadline – which would have given selectmen enough time to look over the recommended options and vote on a warrant article for fall’s town meeting – Carri Hulet, a CBI facilitator, said the panel has made progress, trudging through a plethora of complex data.
“The group feels like they’re moving forward,” Hulet said at an informal working session Tuesday night.
“But that deadline was probably premature.
In an interview Tuesday morning, Murphy said even if the options analysis process failed to meet the September deadline, selectmen would work around them so they may contribute to a town meeting warrant.
“Although we would have loved to be able to have it before fall town meeting”» this doesn’t affect any possible action,” Murphy said, suggesting the selectmen might call a special town meeting when the panel forms their suggested options.
Murphy conceded that troubles with the group early on affected the timing.
“I don’t think (the deadline) was unrealistic. We did waste some time in the beginning when not all the players were at the table,” Murphy said.
The panel now hopes it can make a recommendation to selectmen in time for spring’s town meeting, said Robert Shea, panel member and Falmouth’s GIS coordinator.
On Tuesday night, 13 panel members and alternates formed groups of two and three at tables in the Gus Canty Community Center, going over six of the 10 tentative options, which include everything from curtailing the turbines at certain times of day to shutting off the turbines completely.
The smaller groups – in calm discussions that were a stark contrast to the explosive scenes typical of turbine discussions in Falmouth – thumbed through data and analyzed options on their cost, feasibility and other options.
Hulet set aside a half-hour at the end of the 2½-hour meeting for a group discussion. Part of the discussion included whether town officials should draft a letter to state officials, including Senate President Therese Murray, to ask “specific questions” about the state’s role in turbine mitigation.
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