Falmouth Appeals Board to Resume Hearing on Town's Turbine
By: Brent Runyon
Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday will continue hearing testimony on whether the town should shut down the municipally owned wind turbine at the wastewater treatment plant off Blacksmith Shop Road because it did not apply for a special permit.
Last month, more than 70 people filled every available seat in the meeting room at Falmouth Town Hall to witness the debate over how the local zoning bylaw should be applied to the project.
The board took the matter under advisement and continued the hearing until this Thursday, when more public testimony is expected.
Since the hearing closed, there have been several developments related to wind turbines.
The board hired an attorney, Mark Bobrowski of Concord, to advise it in the matter. Acting Chairman Dennis M. Murphy said he could not answer any questions about the board’s contact with Mr. Bobrowski.
“I’m not able to answer any questions. I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be rude, but I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize this hearing in any way,” Mr. Murphy said in response to questions on Thursday.
He said he would contact zoning administrator Sari D. Budrow to see what he could say publicly before the hearing.
Since Falmouth erected the first municipally-owned turbine in the state, town officials are taking another look at the permitting process.
- County Officials Cool to Wind Turbine (Dec. 24, 2010)
- Draft Bylaw Sets New Restrictions on Turbines in Falmouth (Nov. 23, 2010)
- Falmouth Turbine Noise Within Acceptable Range (Sept. 28, 2010)
- Wind I turbine data blog
Mr. Murphy is vice chairman but took over as acting chairman when Town Counsel Frank K. Duffy Jr. asked Chairman Matthew J. McNamara to step down because of comments he made in the past about the town bypassing its own permitting process.
At the first hearing, Mr. McNamara stepped down at Mr. Duffy’s request. Mr. Duffy cited comments he made at two previous joint meetings with the Falmouth Planning Board regarding wind turbine permitting. At those meetings Mr. McNamara said in his opinion the town should not have bypassed the local permitting process.
Since the first hearing, the Falmouth Planning Board took three steps toward restricting future wind turbines in town. The board voted unanimously to recommend that all land-based wind turbines be declared a district of critical planning concern on the Upper Cape.
The board also voted to bring a one-year moratoria on wind turbines to Spring Town Meeting, and to draft a more restrictive bylaw for regulating turbines.
Residents who live near the turbine have repeatedly complained about the sound the turbine makes, and they showed up in force at the first hearing.
The town-owned turbine at the wastewater treatment plant is a 1.65-megawatt Vestas turbine that is 262 feet tall at the hub.
Residents have also filed a noise complaint against the Notus Clean Energy Turbine in Falmouth Technology Park, which is the same size as the town turbine.
The appellants, Neil P. and Elizabeth L. Andersen of Blacksmith Shop Road, represented by Barnstable attorney J. Alexander Watt, argued that the board should issue a cease and desist order for the wind turbine, because the town never received the special permit required by the town bylaw.
“Wind I is a windmill. Windmills require a special permit. The town did not receive a special permit,” Mr. Watt said last month.
The town’s side was represented by Acting Town Manager Heather B. Harper, Building Commissioner Eladio R. Gore, Mr. Duffy and Town Planner Brian A. Currie, who argued that the turbine is a municipal use and therefore permitted by right, and did not require a special permit.
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