An overflow crowd of about 100 people attended Falmouth Board of Selectmen’s meeting Wednesday to weigh in on potential solutions to the problems with the
town-owned wind turbines at the Falmouth Wastewater Treatment plant sited close to residences.
The meeting was an opportunity for residents to comment on the final report of the Wind Turbine Options Process, which outlined three options for selectmen: run the turbines as much as possible and compensate homeowners; curtail the turbines operations; and take down the turbines and, perhaps, replace them with a photovoltaic solar array.
Of the 33 speakers from Falmouth, 26 said the turbines should be taken down, four said the turbines should stay, and three people said they were concerned about both the town’s finances and the health of residents.
Selectmen limited the speakers to four minutes apiece, and apart from one tense back-and- forth between Chairman Kevin E. Murphy and J. Malcolm Donald of Ambleside Drive, West Falmouth, the meeting was civil. Mr. Donald attempted to read a letter by resident Alma Madden of Ambleside Drive, but Mr. Murphy told him that was not acceptable. The men argued back and forth for several minutes while Falmouth Police Sergeant Brian Loewen stood a few feet away. Eventually, Mr. Donald submitted the letter to the written record.
Selectmen will accept writ- ten statements about the turbines until Monday at 4:30 PM either in person or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Selectmen will meet next Tuesday at 5:30 PM at Falmouth Town Hall to discuss their options. They are expected to make a decision about the wind turbines before Monday, February 4, to place an article on the Special Town Meeting warrant.
In addition to the 75 people packed into the selectmen’s meeting room, another 25 people sat in the Old Water Department down the hall and watched the live feed from Falmouth Community Television. Falmouth Fire Rescue Lieutenant Melvin Trott was on hand to make sure the room was not overcrowded.
In addition to residents who live near the turbines, residents from villages throughout Falmouth not directly affected by the turbines told selectmen throughout the two-hour meeting that the right thing to do was to take the turbines down. Judith G. Stetson of Quissett Avenue, Woods Hole, said she was sorry that Town Meeting members “didn’t do our due diligence” when authorizing the turbines. She urged selectmen to use taxpayer dollars from the town or state to take the turbines down. Douglas C. Brown of Green Acre Road, Teaticket, said he had hoped for another solution, but he had come to the conclusion that the town must take down the turbines. “We can’t afford to buy all these houses,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, but I think that we have to admit that we made a mistake.” Some estimates of the number of homeowners that must be compensated is between 20 and 40. Deborah Siegal of Friends Way, West Falmouth, said children and adolescents need more sleep than the curtailed operations would provide. Jayne B. Abbott of Metoxit Road, Waquoit, said she is a supporter of wind power, but believes the turbines must be removed. “You owe it to our residents there to take the turbines down,” she told selectmen. “The problem here is the town’s inability to admit its mistake,” said Marc P. Finneran of Trotting Park Road, East Falmouth. “You should do the right thing and give these people their lives back.” Jack F. Scanlon of North Falmouth Highway said the residents who are bothered by the turbines are not making up their problems. If the town were to purchase the homes they would lose a significant amount of money. Daniel H. Shearer of Chapoquoit Road, West Falmouth, said he did not believe the neighbors when they first filed complaints about the turbines, until he heard the noise one day and now believes the turbines must come down, although he is concerned about how to pay for it. Maureen Harlow-Hawkes of Old Dock Road, West Falmouth, compared the situation to the contamination of groundwater at the Massachusetts Military Reservation. She said it was the residents’ duty to support those who live around the turbines as they had supported the people of Hatchville.
One of the four people to recommend leaving the turbines up was Richard K. Latimer of Prospect Street, Falmouth. “To take the turbines down that we put up, perhaps foolishly, and to spend additional money to take them down and wind up with nothing is folly. It makes no sense,” he said. The only solution is to take homes through eminent domain, he said.
Gerald C. Potamis of Amherst Avenue, Falmouth, who is also the town’s wastewater superintendent, said the town should operate the turbines during certain hours of the day.
John Carlton-Foss of Church Street, Woods Hole, and Richard L. Koehler of Round Pond Drive, East Falmouth, said the state measurements of noise levels from the turbines were not accurate.
Other residents said the decision was difficult and gave selectmen no guidance. George R. Hampson of Old Main Road, North Falmouth, said the town cannot disregard the economics, but he also empathized with neighbors. “If I was king I wouldn’t know how to vote,” he said. Residents who live near the turbines gave testimony, too. “I ask you, just for a moment, to listen,” said John J. Ford of Blacksmith Shop Road. He paused and the room went quiet. “That peace and quiet is what is missing in the lives of the children, women and men living in the neighborhoods that border Wind 1 and Wind 2.” Colin P. Murphy of Blacksmith Shop Road said he used to be proud to be aFalmouth native, but now hates the town because of what happened with the turbines. “If you cannot take them down, which is obviously my first choice, at least leave them off at night,” said Jane A. Woodin of West Falmouth Highway. Kelley T. Souza of Blacksmith Shop Farm said her four children do not sleep when the turbines are running. Mary E. Knox of Eric Clauson Lane, West Falmouth, said she is affected by shadow flicker in her home. “I really can’t stay in my kitchen anymore,” she said. “I almost feel nauseated.”
There were speakers from Wellfleet, Fairhaven, Brewster, and Plymouth, who also said the selectmen should take down the turbines.
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