FALMOUTH – After a brief closed door meeting Monday, the Board of Selectmen announced it will neither oppose or support a recently filed court motion aimed at getting the town’s two wind turbines spinning again.
A Hatchville-based group called The Green Center, along with 12 Falmouth residents, filed a motion in Barnstable Superior Court last week to intervene in the case after a judge’s ruling made this summer resulted in the shutdown of the two town-owned wind turbines at the wastewater treatment plant.
On June 20, Judge Cornelius Moriarty upheld a decision by the local Zoning Board of Appeals that the turbines were a nuisance to abutters Barry and Diane Funfar, and he ordered them shut down.
The case against the board and the Funfars had been brought by the town. Selectmen decided not to appeal the judge’s decision in early July.
Last week, The Green Center and a dozen citizens filed the motion asking to be allowed to intervene, even though the trial is over and a ruling has already been issued. In documents, they argue taxpayer interests had not been adequately protected by the town.
The motion was not filed earlier, they said, because it wasn’t apparent that taxpayers weren’t being properly represented until the trial had finished, the judge’s order rendered, and the selectmen had decided not to appeal the ruling.
The group emphasized it is not trying to overturn the court’s ruling that the turbines are a nuisance, but simply seeking a court hearing to present some alternative remedies to a total shutdown of the machines.
In addition to the Green Center, the list of proposed intervenors includes Earle Barnhart, John Carlton-Foss, Rhona Carlton, James Churchill, Hilde Maingay, Pamela Pelletreau, Robert Pelletreau, Christina Rawley, Allison White, George Woodwell, Katharine Woodwell and Ron Zweig.
They argue that no evidence was presented during the trial about “the enormous costs associated with ceasing operation of the turbines,” which the group lists as totaling about $10.5 million.
That amount includes $4.62 million left in debt on the construction of Wind 1, $2.9 million for the loan on Wind 2, $1.4 million to $1.8 million for electricity to operate the wastewater treatment plant over the next 12 years, and $1.65 million owed to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center over the next 15 years in place of renewable energy credits.
Wind 1 went online in 2010 and Wind 2 began operating in February 2012. Their operation drew intense opposition from neighbors almost immediately, who said they were experiencing turbine-related health issues. Several neighbors filed lawsuits to get the turbines shut down.
Wind 1 has been shut down since 2015 when it was denied a special permit by the Zoning Board of Appeals. Wind 2 was ordered permanently shut down in June by Moriarty, who deemed the operation of the two turbines a nuisance to neighbors.
The Green Center and citizens argued, in their motion to intervene, that town officials “failed to provide the court with any information regarding various methods to mitigate the noise issues without requiring a complete dismantling of the wind turbines.”
In their written decision following Monday’s executive session, selectmen wrote that “upon consideration of the motion and all the relevant facts, the Board of Selectmen concluded no action is required at this time.”
The board is not required to take a position on the motion filed by the citizens.
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