Falmouth Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to authorize Town Manager Julian M. Suso to hire a consultant to help determine how to comply with building commissioner Rodman L. Palmer’s order to dismantle and remove Wind 1.
“The wind turbines represent a very significant capital investment by Falmouth taxpayers and retain considerable residual value, which the town must responsibly analyze and manage,” Mr. Suso said at the board’s meeting on Monday, January 8. “Proper review and analysis of multiple complex alternatives and issues will necessarily require the professional assistance of a qualified engineering consultant or consultants.”
Following a complaint from Fire Tower Road resident Mark J. Cool, Mr. Palmer determined that Wind 1 was a non-complying structure and requested the town present to him a plan for its dismantling and removal from its present location by May 31. The approximately 400-foot-tall turbine hasn’t been used since September 2015, when the Massachusetts Court of Appeals ruled the turbine needed a special permit from the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals in order to continue operation.
“In summary, Wind 1 does not have a special permit to operate under the old zoning bylaw, does not meet the conditions required to apply for a special operating permit under the new bylaw, and its has been determined to be a nuisance and ordered shut down by a court,” Mr. Suso said.
That order came in June, when Judge Cornelius J. Moriarty II affirmed the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals determination that the wind turbines were a nuisance, and ordered both be shut down. The town did not appeal this decision.
Although both wind turbines are shut down, Mr. Suso confirmed Mr. Palmer’s order specifically refers to Wind 1.
“The status of Wind 2 is different,” he said. “Given the circumstances, it will not operate again at its present location. There is a possibility that it can be relocated by special permit from the planning board under the new zoning bylaw. It does not need to be considered for dismantling or disposition at this time until an appropriate plan for its disposition can be developed.”
The selectmen took time to discuss the potential fate of Wind 2, and if it should be considered by the consultant. Selectman Megan E. English Braga said whatever is done with Wind 1 could likely be done with Wind 2.
Mr. Suso will present a scope of work and cost for hiring a consultant at a future board meeting.
“The scope will be much larger if you want them to look at relocating Wind 2,” assistant town manager Peter Johnson-Staub said.
The board also voted to ask Mr. Palmer for clarification on his order. They want to know if the order for dismantling and removal of the wind turbine prevents them from re-purposing the tower.
Town counsel Frank K. Duffy suggested they might be able to.
“The pole itself is governed by another provision of the zoning bylaw,” Mr. Duffy said. “If you take the wind turbine off the tower, it is no longer considered a wind turbine.”
He noted that the towers already have Federal Aviation Administration approval and there might be value in using them in some other fashion.
Marc P. Finneran offered several suggestions, saying the tower could be used to improve radio communications for the town’s first responders, be used as a cell tower or leased out.
“I’d like you to keep in mind, if you do get rid of the wind turbines themselves, to maintain those towers, use them, and at least get a little revenue back and solve a couple of problems for our taxpayers and, more importantly, our first responders,” he said.
Ms. Braga thanked him for his suggestions.
“The path we’re going down now is going to require the community come together to minimize this financial impact and maximize whatever we can out of the situation that we currently have,” she said. “I just hope that, rather than pushing the envelope, we really take time to allow this community to seek input from individuals, and I hope they continue to provide that input. We can make a plan going forward that makes the best out of what has been a very difficult, complicated and long-term situation. I thank you, Marc, for kicking off that problem-solving endeavor.”
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