Town Meeting Sends Mixed Messages On How To Proceed With Wind Turbines

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By: Christopher Kazarian
Published: 04/06/12

If selectmen were expecting to receive direction from Town Meeting on what to do with the two town-owned wind turbines at the Wastewater Treatment Facility, they were wrong.

Town Meeting only served to further complicate the ongoing turbine controversy last night by voting in favor of Article 23—asking the board to shut the machines down until November—and then less than an hour later it passed the opposing Article 27—supporting the board’s current plan of action to build consensus toward finding a solution on what to do with the machines and how best to address abutters’ concerns.

After that second vote, a puzzled Town Moderator David T. Vieira said, “I would like to be quite honest. For those of you who voted for the previous article on the turbine and voted for this article, I would be very interested for you to share with me the reason after the meeting.”

That led Richard K. Latimer, Precinct Two, to step up to the lectern in an attempt to provide an explanation, only to be chastised by Mr. Vieira.

“Sit down, Richard,” he yelled, as Mr. Latimer continued to talk. Mr. Vieira then banged his gavel, yelling even louder, “I asked you to sit down.”

Mr. Vieira then, perhaps out of frustration with the four-day length of Town Meeting and the discussion and votes that had transpired, asked F. Bradley Stumcke Jr., the chairman of the charter review committee, to schedule a second meeting with him, because “I would like to discuss some things.”

Town Meeting Tension

"To profit from other people’s misery is absolutely wrong, even if it’s just one person... These machines should be shut down at least until November Town Meeting."

                               - Linda Whitehead

The exchange between Mr. Latimer and Mr. Latimer was topped by another the previous night, shortly after Town Meeting took up Article 23.

That occurred as David R. Moriarty, Precinct Six, launched into a tirade, beginning by saying, “I’ve spent the last five years of my life trying to warn you people about the effects of the wind turbines...This was never going to work. It was done for profit.”

He then went on to say that the town was “hoodwinked by the professionals,” namely the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, which is now the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. He also placed blame on Governor Deval L. Patrick, terming this Mr. Patrick’s “Willie Horton,” in reference to the prisoner who was granted a weekend furlough in 1986 under former governor Michael S. Dukakis’s watch and never returned. A year later, Mr. Horton was arrested after assaulting and raping a woman in Maryland.

“Point of order,” Helen E. Gordon, Precinct Eight, yelled after Mr. Moriarty made the analogy, leading to a shouting match between her and Mr. Vieira.

Ms. Gordon said she was both concerned with the time, as the meeting was closing in on 11 PM and she wanted to make a motion for continuing the discussion while also raising issues with speakers being sidetracked. “It is hard for me when we are here for three nights and people are not sticking to the point,” she said.

Mr. Vieira reminded Town Meeting that a point of order should only be used “when I did something wrong procedurally.”

Drummey Claims Turbine Violates Sound Bylaws

Discussion on Article 23 began at 10 PM on Wednesday when Todd A. Drummey, Precinct Eight, presented data from a study he conducted three separate nights last month, in which he measured sound from Wind 1. Results showed the turbine’s noise was well over the 40-decibel limit permitted in the town’s bylaws. Additionally, he said, he found that the turbine’s sound levels represented a 10-decibel increase over ambient noise, violating Department of Environmental Protection regulations.

His claims were first called into question by Joseph L. Hackler, Precinct Eight. “Most of us never hear anything less than 40 decibels,” he said.

Mr. Hackler defended the turbines, calling them part of “a fantastic facility” and pointed out that those opposing the machines have one goal. “My understanding is the opponents’ position is they just want them gone,” he said, as some in the rear of the auditorium yelled out, “Correct.”

“It is totally understandable,” he continued. “But I think we should be more open-minded to meet all the goals of the town.”

Last night Anastasia K. Karplus, Precinct Two, also raised concerns about Mr. Drummey’s study. “We should not make a decision based on evidence that has not been reviewed and on information that may not be completely accurate,” she said.

And she also deflected the notion that selectmen and town officials had been “bamboozled or were following a yellow brick road to nowhere. They were thinking fiscally, thinking environmentally and in terms of improving our health.”

She defended the goals that town officials were trying to achieve when considering the turbines in 2004. They were not “simply looking to grab a pot of money, as has been intimated,” she said.

She was one of several who called on Town Meeting to support the selectmen as they work to find a compromise with neighbors.

Selectmen Vote Curtailment of Turbines

In an attempt to do so, on Monday evening, the board voted in favor of a temporary plan through the end of the fiscal year that would shut down Wind 1 through May 15, when wind speeds reach 10 meters per second. Wind 2 would be operated with an increased “cut in speed” from 3.5 meters per second to 8 meters per second from the hours of midnight to 3 AM. From May 15 to June 30, the turbines would additionally be shut down from 10 PM to 6 AM.

Abutters to the turbines never showed support for that plan.

Whether a compromise can be reached between town officials and wind turbine opponents is unclear as Assistant Town Manager Heather B. Harper spoke to the hostile environment in town concerning the topic. “I felt insecure for my own safety based on the communication I’ve received, as well as the comprehensive global campaign to vilify the Town of Falmouth,” she said.

Wednesday night Kathryn L. Elder, Precinct Six, called on Town Meeting to turn off the turbines to “prevent further harm.”

She was critical of selectmen who had promised to work with neighbors of the turbine shortly after reaching a compromise on a similar article calling for the turbines to be shut down temporarily at Town Meeting in November. Since then, she said, there has “not been a dialogue between selectmen and the neighbors.” The board, she added, has refused to permit public comment when discussing the turbines at its meetings.

Asking for Town Meeting’s support, she said, “the turbines have destroyed our quality of life. They have disrupted our sleep and driven us from the haven of our homes.”

Public Backlash Against Turbines

She received the backing of Linda D. Whitehead, Precinct One, who chastised town officials for siting the two 1.65-megawatt wind turbines so close to residents on Wednesday. “To profit from other people’s misery is absolutely wrong, even if it’s just one person,” she said. “These machines should be shut down at least until November Town Meeting.”

Last night Linda H. Tobey, Precinct Four, said she had lost faith in selectmen for not working with abutters after promising to do so last fall. “If we shut off the turbines, maybe something could be done,” she said.

“That the turbines are causing health issues on Craggy Ridge should be enough to turn them off,” said Charles E. Eastman Jr., Precinct Six. “It is not right that people cannot enjoy their homes, work in their yards and do what everyone else is entitled to do on their properties.”

Those like Mr. Eastman, living near the turbines, gained a brief victory when Town Meeting voted to pass Article 23 in a standing vote, with 100 in favor and 75 opposed, leading Colin P. Murphy of Precinct Six to yell, “My kids can sleep tonight. Thank you” from the back of the auditorium.

But the victory was short-lived, when Town Meeting less than an hour later passed Article 27 with 93 in favor and 74 opposed, after many supporting Article 23 had left.

Before the vote was taken, Selectman Brent V.W. Putnam asked Town Meeting to vote the article down, as his board was looking for guidance. If both articles passed, he said, it would leave selectmen “with a schizophrenic feeling” and unsure of which way to go. “If we can go along with IP [indefinite postponement], it will focus our energy and give us direction,” he said.

The next chapter in the wind turbine saga will take place on Thursday, when the Consensus Building Institute of Cambridge holds a public session at the Falmouth Public Library at 7 PM, to go over its report in which it interviewed 53 stakeholders to determine how best to arrive at a long-term strategy regarding the turbines.

6 Responses to "Town Meeting Sends Mixed Messages On How To Proceed With Wind Turbines"

  1. Massachusetts Technology Collaborative now called the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) They should pay to move the Falmouth Wind Turbines The Town of Falmouth and its residents need to take a hard look at how they got the loud commercial wind turbine. A semi-quasi state agency, Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, had been stuck with two 1.65 MW commercial wind turbines in a warehouse in Texas since 2004 at $3500.00 per month rent .The cost of the turbines around 5 million and the rental fees were proving to be a political embarrassment for the renewable energy progress in Masachusetts. The semi-quasi state agency had put the wind turbines on the auction block and was providing the funding and resources for wind studies which included noise studies to install the commercial wind turbines that they were "stuck" with. Several towns in SE Masachusetts received these types of positive reports for the installation of these two older gear driven wind turbines .The selectmen of the towns just outside New Bedford read the semi-quasi state agency reports and took the bait. The selectmen who had very little knowledge of commercial wind power decided to act fast and look into the wind turbines thinking they were free like the wind . The local residents hired their own wetlands scientist and looked into the siting setbacks . The town quickley stopped the project for "economic reasons." The Town of Falmouth was given another incentive besides a well written positive wind siting report done by the semi quasi state agency and that was the stimulus funds .Arrangements were made for an EPA waiver and stimulus funds to install the commercial wind turbine . The Falmouth selectmen and the residents of Falmouth thought they were getting the deal of a life time and the semi quasi state agency ,the owners of the five year old turbines,got to dump the turbines on the Town of Falmouth . The turbines bought in 2004 have been a political embarrassment since they were purchased and continue today with the noise issues and over 50 Falmouth residents sick over the noise many having to live in their basements. Therese Murray President of the Senate. D Plymouth was asked to help Falmouth residents with the Town of Falmouth ,Wind 1 turbine. Murray says she has her concerns over the health issues reported by Falmouth residents. Another set of state paid for wind noise studies are being done yet again . The turbines need to come down . They are too close to residential homes . The turbines were a mistake from the start . It's time to admit they were a mistake and take them down http://www.masshightech.com/stories/2008/08/04/weekly7-MTC-puts-mothballed-wind-turbines-on-auction-block.html

  2. It appears that the rest of the story is finally coming out regarding the falmouth albatrosses. I have written letters to the enterprise regarding the turbines from the beginning. When the Town of Falmouth felt that there was no need for a permit or town disscussion of these turbines prior to erecting them. The Town should be ashamed of themselves for subjecting the people in the surrounding area for all hardships and physical punishment they had to endure all because the town screwed up, then they failed to admit that it was their fault. there is allot to be said for honesty and politics. The only solution to this problem is for the town to buy these homes at fair value and see that these effected individuals have their quality of life restored.

  3. Mixed messages and the turbines is very confusing to say the least, and appears a little underhanded when the town moderator after the second vote has to ask the crowd to come see him after the meeting and explain why they voted the way they did. Does anything seem to be out of order here? Does anyone else see a problem here? Do the people understand what they are voting for in the first place? A trend has been playing itself out here to anyone who has been reading the paper and was able to pick up on a few things. And i have to ask the question, Do the town leaders have a clue as to how to run a town government? When you read things like this article and the underlying overtones. There have been such questions asked in recent days as to " do we have the right to do this or that" , or is this done at this meeting" lot of hesitation in knowing what to do. Complaining about the length of time that is spent. Is there a minimum, or maximum amount of time that is right or wrong, is it in writing? If this is part of the job of town meeting members, then I say do what it takes and do it right. You owe it to the citizens of the town.

  4. There is more than enough evidence collected by Mr. Drummey and others to prove that the wind turbines exceed both the Falmouth by-law and the state noise regulation. This, and the testimony of more than fifty residents, can make a very convincing case that the pain and suffering of nearby residents for the last two years is for real. It is only a matter of time before some high powered lawyer convinces the residents to file a lawsuit for damages that will easily dwarf the money the town hopes to gain from continued operation. The smart thing to do is to shut them down, sell them, or move them further away.

  5. Falmouth Planning board MTG update (4/10/12) As the board attempts the harrowing task of formulating a new bylaw, last night the board reached consensus on 1) Policy - NO Industrial sized turbines to be permitted in Falmouth & Precautionary Principal shall be used 2) All wind turbines in Falmouth will be Only accessory use 3) All wind turbine applications will go thru special permit process 4) determination of appropriate size will be a function of lot size/districting....... all in all - positive public protective session!!!

  6. April 13, 2012 TODAY'S Falmouth Enterprise Piece "~Planning Board Starts To Put Shape To Turbine Bylaw~" ~~“If there is a lack of scientific consensus in the literature…then the burden shifts to the policy- makers to do no harm,” said Mr. Currie at the April 10, 2012 Falmouth Planning Board meeting. In the context of a siting bylaw, Mr. Currie, the Falmouth town planner, said that unless and until the body of scientific evidence proves no harm exists, the planning board should err on the side of protecting the public.~~ Which then begs the question, why shouldn’t the board of Selectmen, in the context of their statement of principals for turbine operations, be resolute to the same principal? Where is the Board of Selectmen’s sense of parity and continuity with the Planning Board's policy of protecting the public FIRST? Is there an "across the board(s)" appearance of unity, parity or continuity? Is there an appearance of any sense? Is there any wonder the public trust for Falmouth town hall has eroded so?

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