FALMOUTH – On the first night of town meeting, voters struck down a bylaw that would have dramatically scaled back the size of wind turbines. Town meeting continues tonight at 7 p.m. at the Lawrence School. There are 50 articles remaining.
The wind turbine bylaw was a reaction to criticism from abutters and others after the town built two 1.65 megawatt turbines at its wastewater treatment plant. Complaints focused on noise and light flicker from the large wind turbines blades as they turned.
The new regulations crafted by the Falmouth Planning Board limited wind turbines in town to a 250-kilowatt output and required that at least 51 percent of the electricity they generate be used on the site. The second provision essentially tied the turbines to large municipal power users like water treatment plants, limiting possible sites. At the school on Tuesday night, 87 town meeting members favored the new bylaw, with 110 voting against it. A two-thirds majority would have been necessary for it to pass.
The planning board wrote the article because a moratorium on turbine projects in town is set to expire in May.
“If we cannot agree on a replacement bylaw “» we will return to our current inadequate” bylaw, Planning Board Vice Chairman Patricia Kerfoot told town meeting voters.
The board began working on the bylaw in January, said Kerfoot. The new zoning regulations for turbines would have replaced legislation on the books since 1981, which has been criticized by residents and public officials as outdated.
Selectmen did not support the measure on the town meeting floor Tuesday night.
Zoning requirements under the new bylaw also would have prevented Falmouth from moving two 1.65-megawatt town-owned turbines – “Wind 1” and “Wind 2” – at the wastewater treatment plant on Blacksmith Shop Road to a spot about two miles away from Camp Edwards on the Massachusetts Military Reservation.
That stipulation would undercut the selectmen’s promise to members of the Falmouth Wind Turbine Options Analysis Process, a panel charged with coming up with possible solutions to problems such as reported negative health effects associated with the turbines. Selectmen had said they would keep all options open while the panel investigates solutions to alleviate neighbors’ concerns.
Planning board member Richard Latimer introduced an amendment to the article, which would have exempted properties owned or acquired by the town from the bylaw.
Speaking out against the amendment, Selectman Brent Putnam said he was uneasy with exempting town government from laws that average residents follow.
Town meeting member Joe Netto criticized the bylaw’s requirement that most of the power generated by turbines be used on site.
“I do feel that this bylaw limits the energy policy of the United States,” Netto said. “We should be reducing fossil fuels.”
Before town meeting members voted down the turbine bylaw, they said goodbye to Falmouth Police Chief Anthony Riello, who worked his last day Tuesday after announcing his retirement.
“The last five years in Falmouth for me were actually the best of my career,” Riello said after receiving a standing ovation. “Good luck and God speed.”
Falmouth police Capt. Edward Dunne will serve as the town’s acting chief in Riello’s absence. He intends on applying for the full-time post.
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