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Accord reached on Falmouth turbine hours

BARNSTABLE – Falmouth’s two 1.65-megawatt wind turbines will return to a 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. run time after town officials and abutters came to a temporary agreement Thursday.

“It’s been a fruitful day. Congratulations,” Barnstable Superior Court Judge Christopher J. Muse told attorneys for the town of Falmouth and the turbines’ neighbors after they came to the agreement after about an hour of discussion.

The hearing was scheduled for Muse to rule on a preliminary injunction that, had he approved it, would have shut the turbines down until a lawsuit between the parties was decided.

But Muse first told attorneys for both sides to have a “meaningful discussion” about a temporary resolution that could please them both.

“There are serious issues on both sides,” Muse said.

In 2012, turbine neighbors Neil and Elizabeth Andersen went to the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals to ask the board to declare the two town-owned turbines nuisances.

The zoning board sided with the couple, leading the town to appeal the decision in Barnstable Superior Court.

The Andersens and the zoning board won one round earlier this month, when Muse ruled against a town request to toss out the board’s ruling. On Thursday, he went one step further, saying abutters were “injured in some way” by the turbines.

The turbines will now shut down from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., and another hearing will be held Nov. 21. Residents have been presented with a “global settlement” that the Falmouth selectmen will discuss in executive session later this month, Town Counsel Frank Duffy said.

Selectman Rebecca Moffitt was involved in Thursday’s discussion, he said.

The turbines had been turned off from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. in an effort to balance neighbors’ concerns with the town’s financial need to run them a certain number of hours.

Resident Malcolm Donald said Muse’s opinion, and the fact that the two sides finally sat down face-to-face to discuss the issue, was “earth-shaking.”

“He recognized there’s harm, and he’s done a very smart thing by making the parties sit down for a change,” Donald said.

Other residents said going back to a regular schedule allowed them some relief, but the uncertainty remaining was unsettling.

“We still have no security,” Kathie Mount said.