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Fight not over for Falmouth turbine foes

Residents who want a Cape Cod town’s wind turbines torn down said Wednesday that a major setback a day earlier won’t end efforts to remove machines they consider health hazards.

On Tuesday night, Falmouth’s Town Meeting assembly rejected a measure that would have authorized a town-wide vote on whether to spend $14 million to dismantle two town-owned turbines. But on Wednesday, Town Meeting voted 110-91 to approve a motion by the board of selectmen that asks voters to decide if the town should spend the money needed to remove the turbines, said board of selectmen chair Kevin Murphy.

That vote will be held in May. Even if the voters approve removing the turbines, that can’t happen until Town Meeting changes its Tuesday vote and authorizes the spending.

Some turbine neighbors blame the turbines for various mental and physical health problems, from headaches to severe depression, though national wind advocates say no credible science has linked such problems to turbines.

Turbine opponents say if they win in the upcoming town-wide vote, that could pressure the handful of Town Meeting members they need to switch sides and authorize the spending to remove the turbines. Seven votes would have changed Tuesday’s outcome.

“I don’t see how the Town Meeting could go against the wishes of the town. There would be outrage,” said turbine opponent Malcolm Donald.

Both turbines are located at the town’s waste water treatment facility; the first began running in 2010.

Noise complaints eventually led the town to shut the blades down for 12 hours at night. Turbine supporters say that’s an example of the measures that can keep the turbines running, while addressing neighbors’ concerns.

Supporters also say there’s strong, silent support for the turbines in Falmouth and the renewable energy and revenues they produce.

Also, a vote to remove the turbines would make Falmouth the country’s first community to do so, and renewable energy advocates worry that would set a terrible precedent.

Town Meeting member Kathy Driscoll, who opposes dismantling the turbines, said that body has repeatedly voted to keep the turbines running, and she had hoped Tuesday’s vote would settle the issue. Still, she said, she welcomes a vote and said it’s not clear to her if one side has an advantage.