FALMOUTH – On Monday, the public will get a glimpse of what the future holds for two 400-foot wind turbines that have stood silent and unused since a Barnstable Superior Court judge ordered them to never again operate at their wastewater treatment plant location 18 months ago.
One turbine won’t be allowed to operate again in town, but the second may one day spin on some other local property.
Weston and Sampson, engineers hired by the town to look at logistics and costs related to dismantlement and removal of the turbines, are scheduled to present their findings to selectmen Monday at 8 p.m., during the board’s regular meeting in Town Hall.
Discussion will focus predominantly on Wind 2, according to Town Manager Julian Suso, who said he has not yet seen the engineers’ report.
“From our perspective, it will be a preliminary presentation,” said Selectman Susan Moran, the board’s chairwoman. “They may provide some information on dismantling costs, and they may answer one question from the board, which was whether there is a possibility for (Wind 2) to be relocated in town. If there is such a site, it may be suggested.”
In settling a lawsuit by abutters in 2015, the Massachusetts Appeals Court determined that Wind 1 needed a special permit to operate. The Zoning Board then denied that permit request and Wind 1 has not spun since then.
Wind 2 was not part of the suit.
While Wind 2 also lacks the special permit, Town Counsel Frank Duffy said there was no similar successful challenge that forced it to undergo the special permit process.
If Wind 2 is moved to another property in town, operation would require a special permit under the town’s more recent wind system bylaw.
The two wind turbines proved to be a source of bitter debate – and attracted several lawsuits – since the day they started spinning. Wind 1 went online in 2010, but has not operated since September 2015, when the Zoning Board of Appeals denied it a special permit.
Wind 2 started operating in 2012 and shut down when Barnstable Superior Court Judge Cornelius Moriarty issued his decision in 2017.
Abutter Barry Funfar says he is eager to hear the solutions Weston and Sampson will present. “After seven or eight years of this, I’m a little lacking in trust in the town, but I’m hoping they will do the right thing,” he said.
George Woodwell, a Woods Hole scientist and member of The Green Center, has a different opinion. His group currently has an appeal of Moriarty’s ruling in Massachusetts Appeals Court and wants the turbines to be restarted rather than dismantled.
Woodwell called the decision to erect the turbines, which powered the wastewater treatment plant, “a really magnificent move early on by the town.”
“Spending money on alternatives for existing, perfectly operable turbines makes no sense at all,” he said.
Moran said the board will allow 10 minutes for public comment on the turbine report Monday, with two minutes permitted per speaker.
“I’m particularly interested in the questions the public might have,” she said.
Suso called the meeting “the first step in the process.”
“If there is a decision to be made, the Board of Selectmen will make it, but it won’t be Monday,” Suso said. “They will take it under advisement.”
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