Each of the stakeholder groups that comprise the Falmouth Wind Turbine Options Process issued a one-page recommendation to selectmen as part of the final 55-page report.
The groups disagreed throughout the process, and the final recommendations reflect that disagreement. The following is a summary of those statements in the order they are presented in the report. The full text of all the reports will be printed in the Enterprise on Friday.
Climate protection stakeholders Anastasia K. Karplus and Megan C. Amsler recommended that the turbines continue to run with or without curtailment. They urged the town to determine how many homes needed to be purchased and other mitigation efforts. Their reasons were the threat of climate change on Falmouth specifically in the form of rising sea levels and intensifying storms and the health impacts on all residents from the carbon dioxide emissions from coal burning power plants.
The Town of Falmouth’s reliance on fossil fuels is part of the problem and Wind 1 and Wind 2 are part of the solution, they wrote. Falmouth set a goal to reduce town greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent over 2001 levels by 2010. The wind turbines exceed that goal, producing almost 7,500 megawatt hours of clean electricity and offsetting 3,030 tons of carbon dioxide annually.
Furthermore, they wrote that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection found no noise exceedances at neighbors’ homes during the day and
the sampling protocol used by the MassDEP that did find exceedances of the state maximum noise level was flawed.
Fiscal stakeholders Joseph A. Hackler and Kathleen R. Driscoll recommended that the wind turbines continue to operate for the benefit of all and incur no costs to the town, citizens, or community at large. The turbines were authorized by multiple Town Meeting votes over a span of eight years and was not a back door, behind-the-scenes project, they wrote. The project was sited at one of the highest locations in town on 300-plus acres of municipal land at the sewage treatment plant, surrounded by Route 28, Falmouth Technology Park, gravel and mulching operations and the Falmouth Waste Management Facility, Mr. Hackler and Ms. Driscoll wrote.
To replace the turbines with photovoltaic solar panels that produced the same amount of en- ergy would cost over $20 million and cover 24 acres of land, they wrote. The cost to remove the turbines is estimated to be over $9 million, according to the report. They questioned whether that much money should be spent to meet the demands of less than 50 neighbors out of 32,000 residents.
The neighbors with negative health impacts represented by Todd A. Drummey, Kathryn L. Elder, Diane C. Funfar, Alden H. Cook, J. Malcolm Donald, and John J. Ford, recommended that the town take down the turbines and pursue a solar energy project to achieve climate action goals.
That solution would also regain the trust and faith of the community. They said the town should offset the costs of this option with support from the state. The turbines are currently scheduled to run for 12 hours a day. To break even, the turbines would need to be turned off from 11 PM to 4:30 AM, which would impact neighbors health and welfare further.
The options group found no way to resolve the negative impacts on the neighbor’s health, well-being and property values other than purchasing people’s homes or removing the turbines. The cost of removing the turbines and replacing them with a photo- voltaic solar array is estimated to be $3.9 million. Based on assessments, purchasing 20 to 40 homes would cost $8 million to $16 million, they wrote.
Neighbors prefer to stay in their homes and see being forced to move as a tremendous loss. The neighbors urged town officials to seek help from the state to end theirsuffering, testing, and litigation.
The multiple perspectives stakeholder group of Jeffrey W. Oppenheim, Judith Fenwick, and Linda E. Davis suggested that removing the turbines was the only option, but stopped short of providing a specific recommendation to selectmen. The group went back to the original “five core interests” that the turbine group outlined at the beginning of the process in May: health, safety, and well-being of the neighbors; property rights and economic impacts on property for abutters; implementation of Falmouth’s climate plan; fiscal impacts on the town’s taxpayer and town services; and reconciliation to achieve an amicable end to the conflict that has divided the town.
The multiple perspectives group wrote that the health, safety, and well-being of the neighbors should be more heavily weighted than the other interests. The second most important “core interest” is town unity. They wrote that if the board of selectmen wants to end the tumult surrounding the turbines, then there is only one option.
Neighbors concerned with property value represented by James R. Luyten and Maurice Rowe wrote that home values in the area are likely to be negatively impacted if the turbines remain in operation. If selectmen buy homes of health affected neighbors, the larger area will become a “toxic neighborhood,” they wrote. Lost property values will hurt the town’s finances and image for decades, they wrote. The turbines create a “visual stigma” that negatively affects property values on the 150 to 200 homes within a 3,000 foot radius and perhaps more, they wrote. If water views increase property values, wind turbine “visual stigma” could decrease property values, leading to lowered assessments and less revenue for the town.
Town employees David A. Bailey, Karen M. Cardeira and Robert Shea did not make a specific recommendation but used their statement to point out flaws in the Wind Turbine Options Process.
The process facilitator Stacie N. Smith discouraged weighting the specific interests to avoid verbal sparring, they wrote. That helped build relationships and open discussion, but hampered decision making as time went on. There were many issues they would have liked to explore further, they wrote, despite the months long process.
Whatever is decided, the final decision about the turbines will cost millions of dollars, they wrote, and outside financial assistance will be necessary. Selectmen must act quickly to determine a course of action to settle the controversy, they wrote. “Finally, we believe the town government of Falmouth has the responsibility to closely monitor the turbine operations and its impact on neighboring residents over the life of the turbines.”
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