FALMOUTH – An eight-year legal battle between the town and residents who live near two controversial wind turbines at the municipal wastewater treatment plant off Blacksmith Shop Road has been brought to a close with the recent settlement of three remaining court cases involving monetary damages.
The town’s insurer paid the 10 complainants named in the suits a total of $255,000, according to Town Counsel Frank Duffy.
Eight litigants agreed to settlement amounts in March and have already been paid. Linda Ohkagawa, Kathryn Elder, Brian Elder, Todd Drummey, Terri Drummey, Robbie Laird, Mark Cool and John Ford each received $22,500.
While those amounts fell short of their legal expenses, the group decided to accept the payments.
“It was not wanting to pay any more for the grease to turn the wheels of the justice system,” Cool said. “Everybody was so tired.”
Diane and Barry Funfar agreed to a settlement amount last week as part of a separate nuisance complaint and will be paid in about a month. Each was awarded $37,500, for a total of $75,000.
That award won’t balance the financial books for the couple, who had to remortgage their home three times to cover the cost of their attorneys during years of court hearings.
The suit for the monetary damages was filed several years ago, Todd Drummey said.
“At the time, our hope was to force the town into doing something to solve the problems with the turbines,” he said.
It took years for those problems to be resolved.
Wind 1, which started spinning in 2010, was shut down in 2015 after it was denied a required special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Last June, Barnstable Superior Court Judge Cornelius Moriarty ordered Wind 2, which went online in 2011, shut down. Moriarty then ordered that both turbines remain permanently offline after finding they were a nuisance.
The selectmen decided not to appeal the judge’s decision and to work to dispense with other pending suits related to the wind turbines.
“The really lengthy and difficult litigation had a burdensome and oppressive effect on the entire town,” said Susan Moran, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen.
“The board made the decision so the town could move forward in a positive way,” Moran said. “It represented more than seven years and about $800,000 in legal fees.”
It is a relief to finally end the court suits, but it doesn’t make up for years of battling he and neighbors were forced to do, Drummey said.
“As much as I’d like to say we are excited and want to throw a party, this sucked a lot of time and money from us for several years,” he said.
Barry Funfar called the legal battles he and his neighbors waged “a test of endurance and perseverance.”
A veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, Funfar was driven inside by the noise of the turbines and unable to tend to the gardens that he said served as emotional therapy.
He has now gone back outside.
“Despite the seven year setback, or perhaps because of it, it seems especially joyful to me to regain my sanctuary,” he said.
In December, Building Commissioner Rod Palmer ordered selectmen to come up with a plan to dismantle and remove Wind 1. Last week, selectmen responded, saying the turbine would be removed and would never spin again within the town’s borders. In a letter, the board noted there is still the option of relocating the turbine elsewhere in Massachusetts or beyond state borders.
Some turbine abutters plan to file a complaint with Palmer over Wind 2, asking him to order selectmen to come up with a plan for disposal of that turbine.
Attorney Christopher Senie, who represented most of the abutters, said the turbines had spawned nine lawsuits during their tenure.
“All the cases have now been withdrawn or settled,” Senie said.
The only remaining case is an appeal of Moriarty’s decision by a group called the Green Center and a handful of Falmouth residents who want to see a compromise reached rather than the removal of the wind turbines. The appeal failed to gain traction in the local courts and is now pending before the Massachusetts Appeals Court.
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