BARNSTABLE — A six-day trial in Barnstable Superior Court involving the Town of Falmouth and its own Zoning Board of Appeals over two controversial wind turbines ended Wednesday, although a decision on the case is not expected for at least another month.
The town had appealed a December 2013 determination by the zoning board that the twin municipal wind turbines at the wastewater treatment plant were a nuisance to Barry and Diane Funfar, who live on Ridgeview Drive, about 1,500 feet from the 397-foot turbines. The ruling overturned then-Building Commissioner Eladio Gore, who had declined to take any action on the Funfars' complaint.
Eight witnesses took the stand during the bench trial before Barnstable Superior Court Judge Cornelius Moriarty II, including the Funfars and several acoustical engineers. Attorneys on both sides have until Dec. 23 to submit their final briefs on the case, and Moriarty will rule at some point after that date.
“It was a full and well-presented case,” said attorney Christopher Senie, who represented the Funfars. “We now have the opportunity to present post-trial briefs, which we look forward to doing.”
The town believes it gave the judge all the relevant information and testimony he would need to make a decision, Falmouth Town Counsel Frank Duffy wrote in an email.
The turbines have been a source of controversy since they were installed. Neighbors have complained about health effects from their operation and have tried a number of avenues to shut them down, while the town has warned of dire financial consequences if either turbine is deactivated. The town has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees for outside attorneys to handle much of the related legal work; it has also lost revenue that was to come from the sale of electricity from the turbines.
The town has been playing defense on the turbines since the state's Appeals Court ruled that Wind 1, which began operation in March 2010, should have received a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals before it was constructed. The turbine was shut down in September 2015 after the zoning board issued a cease-and-desist order; it subsequently denied the permit application in April, and the town is appealing that decision in the state's Land Court.
Wind 2, which was switched on in February 2012, continues to spin under a curtailed operation plan per a November 2013 order by Barnstable Superior Court Judge Christopher Muse. The turbine can run 12 hours a day, six days a week, and must be shut down on certain holidays.
The selectmen recently approved mediation to try to settle the bulk of the cases, although two more suits are likely to go to trial in the spring, Duffy said recently.