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Turbine protest denied by Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals

Edward and Suzanne C. Hobart no longer live in Falmouth. They have sold their home on Blacksmith Shop Road in West Falmouth and moved into what they call a “rat trap” in Cataumet to escape the dread they said the Notus Turbine had on their lives.

They sold their house in West Falmouth for $60,000 less than its assessed value. But their health has improved since they moved, J. Malcolm Donald, Ambleside Drive, West Falmouth, told the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals at its meeting last Thursday, May 1. “Since they moved out, [Ms. Hobart’s] demeanor is back to that of more or less a normal person,” Mr. Donald said.

Despite the Hobarts’ repeated testimony that the turbine caused health implications and reduced the value of their home, the appeals board voted unanimously to uphold building commissioner Eladio S. Gore’s determination that the turbine at the Falmouth Technology Park is not a nuisance.

“I feel terrible for the Hobarts,” said zoning board member Edwin P. (Scott) Zylinski before voting. “This is one of the most disturbing hearings I’ve been a part of.”

The Hobarts filed their appeal with the zoning board at the end of 2013. The hearing was scheduled to open in January but the Hobarts asked to extend the hearing until March. The March hearing continued until Thursday in order for the board to digest all the testimony.

“It was a nuisance,” Michael J. O’Neill, an attorney from the Boston law firm McGregor & Associates, said of the turbine. He stressed “was.”

Mr. O’Neill, who represented Daniel H. Webb, the owner and operator of the Notus Turbine, said, “Since they no longer live in the house, they are no longer aggrieved.”

Mr. O’Neill said that a loss of property value did not constitute a nuisance as the Hobarts said it did. “What kind of precedent would that set?” he asked the board. He said the sandpit in the technology park as well as many other things could be considered a nuisance because they have a negative impact financially.

Mr. O’Neill said that he had given evidence to suggest that Ms. Hobart suffered from tinnitus and other maladies prior to the installation of the turbine. He said that he gave the board a letter sent from Ms. Hobart’s doctor in 2008 that said she did not enjoy life then.

Mr. Zylinski asked the Hobarts why they sold the house before the conclusion of the appeals board decision.

“We were desperate for money,” Mr. Hobart said. He said that they were a middle class family that could not afford a lawyer for this appeal process as Mr. Webb could.

Ms. Hobart had not been able to work as she had in the past and even missed her son’s wedding as a result of financial difficulties. He said the offers they had for the house were not getting any higher but only lower.

“We left the property because we couldn’t deal with it. Emotionally, physically and financially,” Mr. Hobart said.

Board member Kimberly A. Bielan asked the Hobarts if they realized they moved next door to a technology park when they first bought the property.

Mr. Hobart said that they could tolerate the other noises in the park, such as trucks. Trucks are on a schedule and do not interfere with an evening on their deck, for example, he said. The turbine runs at night and during the day.

That is a risk a homeowner takes when they move next door to a technology park, Ms. Bielan said.

Mr. Zylinski asked what took the Hobarts so long to seek relief from the zoning board.

Mr. Hobart said that they were unaware that they could come to the board for help and they were also too busy tending to maladies and financial difficulties.

Before they voted, all members said they could not connect the decline in property value to the turbine. There is a lot that goes into an appraisal, chairman of the board David A. Haddad said.

Mr. Haddad said that he pored over the many medical documents Mr. O’Neill supplied to the board and he could not find any that were conclusive to wind turbine-related ailments for Ms. Hobart.

Barry A. Funfar, Neil P. Andersen, and Linda H. Ohkagawa, all West Falmouth residents, have protested Mr. Gore’s determination that wind turbines are not a nuisance in the last two years. Mr. Funfar and Mr. Andersen were successful in their hearings, while the board denied Ms. Ohkagawa her appeal.