The Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals’ deliberation on a special permit application for one of two town-owned wind turbines on Blacksmith Shop Road, was rescheduled from Saturday, February 27, to Saturday, March 5, at Falmouth Town Hall.
The application followed a Massachusetts Court of Appeals ruling that the town should have obtained a special permit prior to erecting the turbine in 2010. The town appealed the decision in March, but the Supreme Judicial Court declined to review it. A public hearing on the application before the zoning board opened in November and continued over the course of five meetings.
While the volunteer board does not typically meet on Saturdays, members agreed to the weekend deliberation date due to full meeting agendas and other schedule conflicts. Town zoning administrator Sari D. Budrow said on Wednesday, February 10, that the deliberation has since been rescheduled to the following Saturday at 9 AM, a date that worked better for all board members.
The board will need to allow several hours for deliberation on the application. Falmouth special counsel Mark Bobrowski provided members with a flow chart for the decision-making process that lists four steps, each with multiple components.
They must determine whether Wind 1 is “accessory,” rather than primary in its use; whether the 50-foot height limit for community service uses in public use districts applies (both of the Blacksmith Shop Road turbines are 400 feet tall) or whether the turbine fulfills a “municipal purpose” and is therefore exempt from the requirement; and whether Wind 1 meets the performance standards set forth in the town bylaw.
Finally, the board must determine that “the proposed use will not have adverse effects which overbalance its beneficial effects on the neighborhood or the town, in view of the particular characteristics of the site” and after considering the adequacy and suitability of the site for the proposed use; the impacts on traffic flow, safety, neighborhood visual character and affordable housing; the adequacy of sewage disposal methods, water source and drainage, utilities and other public services; and compliance with other bylaw provisions.
In addition to extensive verbal testimony provided by the town and turbine neighbors’ attorneys, sound and medical experts, town officials and members of the public throughout the hearing, 164 letters and e-mails on the subject were submitted by community members between July (four months prior to the hearing opening) and the close of the hearing on Monday, February 1. Of those comments, 122 express support for a special permit being granted, and 42 express opposition. Ms. Budrow said that more than 50 of them were submitted within the last five days of the hearing.
The comments are dispersed throughout five overstuffed manila folders containing all of the documents associated with the special permit application.
Those who oppose the permit, who are mostly neighbors of the existing turbine, describe harmful impacts of the structure on their health and daily lives, declining property values and exceedance of “accessory use” as defined in the town bylaw.
Mark J. Cool, an abutter of the turbine on Fire Tower Road, argued in a comment to the board that “allowing Wind 1 to operate at any accessory level exceeds the current needs of the Wastewater Treatment Plant,” which it was intended to support. Mr. Cool is an associate member of the zoning board and has recused himself from all matters relating to the application.
One writer in favor of the application identified herself as Maiya Robinson, a resident of both Hatchville and Woods Hole, who is a 6th grader at the Morse Pond School. Maiya urged the zoning board to approve the continued operation of the turbine.
“Clean energy is important because if we use all of this fossil fuel, our air will be polluted and we will have a very hard time breathing,” she wrote.
Unlike many supporters who cited a lack of evidence for abutters’ complaints, Kathleen R. Driscoll of Antlers Shore Drive wrote that she believes some individuals are truly affected by the turbines’ operation. She supports the application, but added that “a special permit should be issued to continue to seek solutions for affected neighbors, whether it be temporary curtailment or other mitigation options that have never been considered.”
A supermajority vote is required for approval of the special permit.
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