Town Meeting Tuesday night, November 15, approved an additional $260,000 in legal fees.
The funds were included in Article 18, which sought the transfer of $440,000 in free cash to fund legal and consulting services. That includes $400,000 for ongoing wind turbine, labor, and conservation commission litigation, and $40,000 for a consultant whot will help selectmen implement its “vision process” as part of the town’s strategic plan.
he $400,000 figure will supplement a town counsel budget that Town Meeting previously approved for the current fiscal year last November. Of that amount, $260,000 will fund litigation in three wind turbine cases, including an appeal of a Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals decision in April to deny a special permit for Wind 1, one of the town’s two turbines.
The other cases are being brought by private residents against the town. One case, which is being brought by Barry and Diane Funfar, went to trial in Barnstable Superior Court on Thursday, November 17, town counsel Frank K. Duffy Jr. said. Another case being brought by Blacksmith Shop Road resident Neil P. Andersen is scheduled for a pretrial hearing in December and will likely go to trial in the spring, he said.
“A lot of the cost is in the preparation,” Mr. Duffy said. “We’re fully vested in these cases.”
While attempts at mediation in the turbine cases have so far been unsuccessful, Mr. Duffy said that future attempts at mediation could still be made.
The remaining $140,000 in legal fees will fund litigation in two “regulatory taking” cases involving the conservation commission. The cases concern two property owners on Edgewater Drive West and Alder Lane who were denied special permits by the commission to build on their properties, due to their location near wetland areas.
“I’m very pleased with this report,” Austin Heath of Precinct Eight said. “It’s exactly what I wanted.”
However, Marc P. Finneran of Precinct Six criticized town officials for not making the report available to residents earlier. Mr. Duffy said he submitted his report to Town Clerk Michael C. Palmer on November 4, but that a report from November 2015 was mistakenly posted to the town website instead. Town officials have since updated the website, while hard copies of Mr. Duffy’s most recent report were also made available at town hall.
“We apologize for the error, but we’ve corrected it,” he said.
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