Now that voters refused to approve a debt exclusion to take down the town’s turbines, selectmen must go back to the drawing board for a solution. “You know, I think this was our best chance at resolving this issue. That is why the board decided on this course of action,” Selectman Brent V.W. Putnam said yesterday.
He admitted it will not be easy, particularly with the Zoning Board of Appeals ruling in favor of abutter Neil P. Andersen of Blacksmith Shop Road, Falmouth, earlier this month that Wind 1 represents a nuisance, which overturned Building Commissioner Eladio R. Gore’s earlier denial of the complaint. Now Mr. Gore must draft a formal re- sponse, including a course of action to address the issue.
Complicating matters further is the lawsuit Mr. Andersen and his wife, Elizabeth L. Andersen, have filed in Barnstable Superior Court that challenges Mr. Gore’s decision that the town did not need a special permit to erect Wind 1. “If the town loses that battle, we’ve got bigger problems on our hands,” he said. “If the current permit is determined to be wrongly granted by the courts then we’d have to go back and get a new permit, but we can’t because the new bylaw prohibits turbines of that size. The town may have painted itself in a corner and I’m not sure how we are going to get out of it.”
Now that voters have had their say, Chairman of the Falmouth Board of Selectmen Kevin E. Murphy said that “everything is back on the table… Even if it means curtailment, increasing or decreasing the hours of operation, or looking at purchasing specific properties. Taking down the turbines was not acceptable to the voters and we’ll come up with another option. Life goes on.”
In assessing Tuesday’s vote, Mr. Murphy said, “No one is a winner here. No one. We need to understand that and move forward.” He was optimistic that a solution could be found that would be acceptable to all parties although not everyone would be happy with it. As to where he saw the board going, Selectman Douglas H. Jones agreed that every option needs to be looked at, although he was cooler about some than he was about others.
Personally he was in favor of pursuing curtailment in such a way that the turbines could run just enough that they would provide the energy the town needs with the least impact on the neighborhood. If the town ultimately followed such a path, he hoped that the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center would reconsider its decision in April to not forgive the town the $1 million in renewable energy credits (RECs) it provided as an advance to help fund the construction of Wind 1.
Mr. Putnam also believed the state should play a role in whatever solution the town chooses. Thus far, he said, they have refused to take such responsibility, a decision he was highly critical of. “One way or the other the state always had a role to play and had the option and ability to do something, and quite frankly, I think the governor, and quite frankly, Senate President Murray, all had the opportunity to step up and do something,” he said. “Instead they’ve just been sticking their finger in the wind and waiting for someone to make the decision for them.” “I’m disappointed with the state,” he continued. “They had the opportunity to step up and just walked away from it.”
As far as the option of purchasing the homes of impacted neighbors, Mr. Jones said, “It is one we do have to consider, but it isn’t where I initially would head.” He, too, agreed that Tuesday’s vote has left selectmen in somewhat of a quandary. “One of the reasons we were encouraging taking them down is that would make the problem go away,” he said. “Where these are not coming down, the problem is now going to be around for a long time.”
Town Manager Julian M. Suso anticipated that selectmen would devote significant time in June exploring solutions, although Mr. Murphy said the first discussion would not occur at the board’s next meeting on Monday, June 3. “We will have a reorganization and I would think out of respect to the new chairman I would not put it on as an agenda item,” Mr. Murphy said. Following that, Mr. Suso said, selectmen would work diligently on this challenge and move forward with one or more possibilities. He said it was imperative that a solution be found, but that it be done in a deliberative manner that plays out in the public spectrum.
He, too, believed that the legal issues could play a role in what ultimately occurs with the turbines. It was imperative, he said, that Tuesday’s vote does not serve to divide the town even further, but allows it to work toward a resolution. “At some point there is a potential for coming together and I think that should remain our goal as a community,” he said.