FALMOUTH – The public will have its say on the town’s wind turbines at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 23 – when the Falmouth Board of Selectmen will solicit public comments before it decides how to proceed with Falmouth’s two turbines, Wind 1 and Wind 2, located at the Falmouth Wastewater Treatment Facility. The meeting will be held at the Selectmen Meeting Room at 59 Town Hall Square, and will be broadcast live on FCTV.
A Jan. 18 joint meeting between the Wind Turbines Options Analysis Process (WTOP) and the Falmouth Board of Selectmen, presented four options to selectmen: Full operation of the turbines, curtail the running hours of the turbines (under one of two curtail options), or remove the turbines and replace them with solar panels. The recommendations stem from the WTOP’s 53-page, detailed report that also describes the WTOP process and how it reached its conclusions.
Kevin Murphy, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, thanked WTOP members for their service to the community at the Jan. 18 meeting. “The time, effort, and civility you’ve displayed was extraordinary, and you should be commended,” he said.
“We are planning [Jan. 23] to have an open meeting with the Board of Selectmen to solicit and take public comments,” he added “We surely would like to hear from each and every one of you, but we may come up with guidelines about the amount of time we will give everybody.”
Murphy said they are not trying to rush the process, but the town must act by Feb. 4 to prepare a warrant article for Falmouth’s spring special town meeting. He said selectmen may use the WTOP’s data to consider other options or combining recommended options. He also suggested compromise from all interested parties is needed. No matter what happens, Murphy said the issue could still end up before voters.
Some Falmouth residents have expressed concerns that the selectmen’s meeting room will be insufficient to hold an expected large crowd of people wishing to speak about the turbines. Despite the concerns, the venue at 59 Town Hall Square is not going to change.
“The reason we chose this venue is because it’s the only venue in the community we are allowed to broadcast live,” Murphy told The Bulletin. “We have no plans of shutting anyone out. If need be, the selectmen will hold another meeting.”
There will be no debate at the Jan. 23 meeting, as selectmen will only listen to the comments and take them under consideration as it plans how to proceed. Selectmen are expected to set some ground rules at the meeting’s start about the length of time people can speak.
“I’m hoping for a robust public comment period. … The board [of selectmen] will vote before we begin on following our speaker policy about how long will we allow each speaker,” Murphy said. He stressed that lengthy presentations already have been made through the WTOP process, and selectmen have this information in the 53-page report.
Murphy said there also will be a written commentary period, and selectmen will announce on Jan. 23 when the written commentary period will end. “We’re up against the clock. We have to come up with a warrant article by Feb. 4,” he said.
Once selectmen put together a warrant article, it when will have to be voted on at a town meeting before it could go voters in May’s general town election.
“We [the selectmen] have two weeks to take public comment and deliberate [amongst] ourselves because, like you folks, we have different opinions. … The goal is to have the article we want for Feb. 4,” Murphy said.
In addition to their recommendations, the WTOP explored other options that were not recommended to the selectmen. These included use of sound barriers and berms, moving the turbines, mechanical alterations to reduce noise; and legal action against engineers, contractors, and consultants.
Kathryn Elder, a WTOP stakeholder who helped write its report, spoke with The Bulletin prior to the Jan. 23 meeting. She and her family live within 1,700 feet from Wind 1, and she said it’s had a “profoundly negative” impact on their qualify of life.
“It ranges from annoying to, at times, so disruptive that I leave the property because when it’s windy … it actually makes me and my husband and my family very anxious. It impacts anything from our quality of sleep to our ability to enjoy being outside gardening on our property,” she said.
Elder is the co-author of the report’s statement from those adversely impacted by the turbines. She discussed her recommendation with The Bulletin.
“The turbines should come down, and the town should go forward to develop a renewable energy project that the whole town can be proud of and that doesn’t harm anyone. We’ve given them some very good financial analysis of how that will work,” Elder said.
“Any option going forward will require help in terms of financial assistance from the state,” she added. “Would you rather ask for help to buy houses to remove people, or ask for help to remove the turbines to solve this problem?”
The 53-page report from the Wind Turbines Options Analysis Process (WTOP) is now available online at the Falmouth town website: http://www.falmouthmass.us/energy/wtopreport.pdf.
A review of the WTOP recommendations will be in the Jan. 23 print edition of The Bulletin and through future updates on Wicked Local Falmouth.
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