Falmouth ZBA Rules Wind Turbines Are Nuisance at Ridgeview Avenue Home
By: Sam Houghton, December 6, 2013
At the conclusion of last night’s Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals’ meeting, there were congratulations and pats on the back for Barry A. Funfar, an outspoken West Falmouth resident whose property is near the town-owned turbines.
The celebratory mood followed a unanimous vote by the board to overturn the building commissioner’s determination that wind turbines are not a nuisance to Mr. Funfar, a resident of Ridgeview Avenue. The turbines, Mr. Funfar maintained, are a nuisance to him and his wife, Diane C. Funfar.
With two members of the board recused, the board needed a unanimous vote from the four present to overturn the commissioner’s decision. At the end of an emotional, two-hour hearing, the board agreed with the Funfars.
The hearing was a continuation of Mr. Funfar’s original appeal filed in September. The turbines, he said, have worsened his pre-existing health issues as well as affected the value of his home and have caused new health issues. The board continued the hearing from September in order to visit the Funfar’s residence and review data from doctors that had been presented.
Mr. Funfar, a veteran, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He presented the board with evidence from medical doctors and psychologists to show that symptoms of his disorder had worsened since the turbines were in operation. Three doctors had sent letters addressed to the board, which were read last night.
Mr. Funfar also submitted an appraisal from Joseph Clancey that stated Mr. Funfar’s property had decreased in value by 20 percent. A local real estate agent, Annie H. Cool, also told the board that properties in the area of the turbines were not selling as well as those elsewhere in Falmouth. She added that West Falmouth homes should be selling well but the turbines must be having an effect on potential buyers.
The evidence was enough for the zoning board to overturn building commissioner Eladio R. Gore.
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The differences in the two appeals hinged on Mr. Clancey’s appraisal. This was hard evidence, Mr. Haddad agreed, that proved the turbines are a nuisance.From the onset, the meeting must have seemed like déjà vu for members of the board. At the last zoning board meeting held two weeks ago, members heard from Linda Ohkagawa, who also requested they overturn Mr. Gore’s decision. The board, however, did not grant Ms. Ohkagawa’s request as board member David A. Haddad voted against it.
“Just the history of the assessed value that I see here convinces me that there is a real impact on Mr. Funfar’s property because of the proximity to the turbines,” said board member Kenneth H. Foreman. The appraisal also stated that all sales within a half a mile of either Wind 1 or Wind 2 are affected in the same negative way.
“That’s enough to convince me,” Mr. Foreman said. Mr. Haddad agreed.
None of the members of the board doubted Mr. Funfar experienced displeasure from the turbines. Mr. Haddad and Mr. Foreman both agreed, however, that because Mr. Funfar suffered from a pre-existing condition, his judgment was biased.
Town counsel Frank K. Duffy Jr. did not doubt that Mr. Funfar suffered, but he urged the board to vote in compliance with Massachusetts state law, which discussed pre-existing conditions. “It is too difficult to separate the symptoms caused by the pre-existing condition and the symptoms caused by the noise complaint.” A nuisance, he said, must be a nuisance under all circumstances.
Chairman of the board, Matthew J. McNamara, did not agree with Mr. Duffy. “I want to remind the board that one of the purposes of the bylaw is to protect the welfare, health and safety of all town residents.” We should be more inclusive than exclusive, he said. Those with pre-existing conditions should not be excluded when making appeals to the town about nuisances, he added.