FALMOUTH – If one town-owned wind turbine on the wastewater treatment plant property must be dismantled and hauled away because it is “non-conforming” under the town’s general bylaws, the second turbine on the same site should be taken down and carted off as well, according to an abutter of the controversial wind machines.
Building Commissioner Rod Palmer recently wrote to selectmen, asking that they submit a plan by May 31 for the dismantling and removal of Wind 1. The action was based on a request for enforcement from Fire Tower Road resident Mark J. Cool.
Cool had limited his request to Wind 1, since his contention was that it fit the definition of “abandonment” under the Falmouth wind energy system bylaw. That bylaw classifies a turbine as abandoned when it has not operated for a year. Once it is abandoned, the owner must take it down.
The 400-foot-high Wind 1 hasn’t spun since 2015, Cool noted, when it was denied a special permit by the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Wind 2, similar in size to Wind 1, was in operation until June, when a court ordered both turbines to remain permanently shut down, so Cool assumed it wouldn’t be classified as abandoned until June 2018.
In his response to Cool, Palmer said the general zoning bylaws give the building commissioner the authority to order any “non-complying” structure removed, so he did not need to make a determination under the wind energy bylaw.
Wind 2 would be non-conforming as well under that same general bylaw, Cool reasoned. “Otherwise it’s selective enforcement,” he told the Times.
In his recent email to selectmen, Cool said: “In an effort to be responsive to the community’s interest toward moving on to a full and final wind turbine resolution, I urge the board’s discussion include: whether Wind 2 should be included as part of the Building Commissioner’s directive; whether such action is within the board’s executive authority; whether selectmen should direct the town manager to request the Building Commissioner’s consideration of a revised directive incorporating Wind 2 as part of the dismantling and removal plan.”
Cool told The Times he found it curious that Palmer did not include Wind 2 in his directive to selectmen. “Both are in violation of the (state) zoning act and the local bylaw,” he said.
While the agenda for Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting listed an announcement regarding Palmer’s letter about Wind 1, board Chairwoman Susan Moran told the Times that there would be no discussion of the issue.
The Friends of Falmouth Wind posted a form letter on its Facebook page for residents to sign and submit to selectmen. The group, which includes an environmental organization called The Green Center, has appealed Barnstable Superior Court Judge Cornelius Moriarty’s order to permanently shut down the turbines in state appeals court.
“I believe your board was in error not to appeal Judge Moriarty’s ruling shutting down Falmouth’s wind turbines,” the letter states. “To attempt to rectify that expensive mistake, I urge your board to support The Green Center’s effort seeking reconsideration from the court.”
George Woodwell, a Woods Hole resident and member of The Green Center, said voters defeated a ballot question by a 2-to-1 margin in 2013, asking for a tax increase to take down the turbines and pay off the outstanding loans taken to build them.
“The majority of the town decided they did not want to spend any money removing the turbines, so one would think that advice would guide the Board of Selectmen now,” Woodwell said.
The town still owes about $10.5 million related to construction and operation of the two wind turbines. While there hasn’t been a solid calculation of the cost to dismantle and remove the machines, Town Manager Julian Suso previously estimated it will probably be “in excess of $1 million.”
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