Decision ensures controversial turbine won't be turned back on in the immediate future, appeal is possible
FALMOUTH — The Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals denied a special-permit application for one of the town's twin wind turbines Thursday night, more than a month after its members nearly unanimously found fault with a request to let the shuttered device spin again.
The decision means that Wind 1, one of the two turbines, will remain dormant in accordance with the board's September cease-and-desist order. The state's Appeals Court ruled in 2015 that the machine should have received a permit before it was constructed. Then-Building Commissioner Eladio Gore had ruled that since the turbines are owned by the town and were installed on town land, zoning laws didn't apply. That ruling forced the town to file the special-permit application.
The board voted 4-1 in favor of the denial Thursday after spending about an hour going through the decision drafted by attorney Mark Bobrowski. Board member Edward Van Keuren was the dissenting vote. As he did at a March 5 meeting where the board discussed the permit in detail, Van Keuren said Thursday that he found faults with the town's application but thought there was a path for the board to approve it by issuing a series of conditions.
“I still feel very strongly that the town should have done some work a long time ago,” he said.
Van Keuren suggested adding language to the board's decision related to possible conditions that would have resulted in the permit's approval, but the rest of the board members declined. The denial doesn't prohibit the town from submitting a new application, although it would have to wait two years or make “specific, material changes” to its contents for an earlier reconsideration, Bobrowski said.
“Nothing you do will knock them out,” Bobrowski said.
The majority of the board members found fault with the application on more than one point, including the zoning requirement that Wind 1 will not have “adverse effects” on either the neighborhood or the town. Throughout the permit hearing, which stretched over a half-dozen meetings and several months, neighbors of the turbine presented evidence on multiple fronts, including personal testimony, in an attempt to show the negative effects of the turbine.
The turbines at the town's wastewater treatment facility on Blacksmith Shop Road have been a source of controversy since they were installed more than five years ago. Neighbors have complained about health effects from their operation and have used a number of avenues to try to shut them down, while the town has warned of dire financial consequences should either device be deactivated.
After the Zoning Board of Appeals' decision is finalized and signed by the board, it will be filed with the town clerk's office, kicking off a 20-day window for the town to file an appeal either in Barnstable Superior Court or the state's Land Court.
Christopher Senie, a Westboro attorney who represents some of the neighbors, said he expects the town will file the appeal although he's hoping Thursday's ruling will end some of the nine pending turbine-related lawsuits.
“Hopefully the parties will get together and talk about how to extricate themselves from this situation,” Senie said.
Doug Jones, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, did not immediately return a message Thursday seeking comment.