FALMOUTH – After huddling in a closed-door session for more than 2½ hours Monday night, figuring out whether they would abide by a judge’s decision last week to keep the town’s two mammoth wind turbines at the wastewater treatment plant shut down or fight on via an appeal, the selectmen announced they needed more information “because of the potential financial consequences of not operating the wind turbines.”
Neighbors of those turbines, who began filing complaints and lawsuits soon after Wind 1’s blades began spinning in 2010, initially packed the Town Hall meeting room but had dwindled to a handful by the time the board returned to open session.
In a written statement, the selectmen said they would continue to contact the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the Massachusetts Water Pollution Abatement Trust regarding the town’s “substantial financial obligations to those agencies.”
If Wind 2 permanently stops spinning, the town may have to pay back the $5 million it received from the state for its construction, along with interest. The town is also paying $400,000 annually on a loan related to Wind 1.
Barry Funfar, who had successfully asked the Zoning Board of Appeals in 2013 to declare the two turbines a nuisance and order them shut down, said he was not surprised by the selectmen’s statement.
“It’s what I expected,” he said. “But I would think they would know every option available by now.”
Neil Andersen, who lives closest to the 400-foot turbines on Blacksmith Shop Road, said he and his wife “are still wrecks” even though both turbines went still Wednesday, the day after Barnstable Superior Court Judge Cornelius Moriarty’s decision. “It’s taken over our lives,” Andersen said.
Moriarty’s ruling came almost seven months after a trial on the selectmen’s appeal of the zoning board decision. It contradicted the decision by a Barnstable Superior Court jury in April that sided with the town, saying there was no nuisance at a Wind 1 neighbor’s property.
Several other lawsuits are working their way through the courts.
In their statement, the selectmen said they would request that the town’s attorney renew settlement discussions with lawyers for the litigants “with a goal toward resolution of all outstanding litigation and matters involving the turbines.”
The town has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees for outside attorneys to handle much of the legal work related to the turbine challenges; it also has lost revenue that was to come from the sale of electricity from the turbines.
While residents waited for the selectmen to come out of the executive session, several commented on the impact the turbines had had on their lives.
“I’m 1,300 feet from the turbines,” Anderson said. “It just pounds and pounds and pounds at you. My ears have been ringing since 2010. You get headaches. It’s left me frustrated and bitter.”
Malcolm Donald, who lives on Ambleside Drive, said his house gets the flicker as the turbines’ blades spin. “In the morning, it’s like you’re in a disco with the flashing.”
Donald said after suffering the effects from Wind 1, he came back from a trip to Canada to find the town getting ready to erect Wind 2. “They’re having problems with the first one, then they put up a second,” he said. Flicker from Wind 2 has affected his house even more, Donald said.
Cynthia Polakovic does not live near the turbines but came Monday to support those who do. “Those turbines are way too close,” she said. “I think most people in town don’t know the issues and how their neighbors are suffering.”
The turbines erected in Falmouth were not what town meeting members expected when they approved an article to erect the first one, town meeting member Deborah Siegal said. They were expecting a far smaller turbine, based on discussion by town officials.
‘’I’m a strong environmentalist, but I believe the turbines shouldn’t be in neighborhoods,” she said. “Smaller turbines might not have caused these problems.”