The decision not to challenge a court ruling effectively leaving Falmouth’s twin wind turbines inoperable shocked supporters and critics alike.
“It’s just such a tremendous relief to me and it’s still taken these past couple of days to sink in,” said Barry A. Funfar, a plaintiff in the case that ultimately led the board of selectmen to drop legal proceedings.
Mr. Funfar is one of several neighbors who argued that the presence of the turbines negatively affected their health. A Vietnam War veteran open about his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, Mr. Funfar alleged in court documents that the machines caused increased stress, anxiety, insomnia and nausea.
The first of the two turbines, Wind 1, began operating near the town’s wastewater plant on Blacksmith Shop Road in 2010. Complaints, and then legal proceedings, followed soon after.
Although intimately involved in several legal disputes concerning the turbines, Mr. Funfar missed the board of selectmen’s Monday, July 10, meeting. That is when selectmen voted in executive session not to appeal a Barnstable County Superior Court ruling ordering the machines silenced.
If anything, he thought selectmen eventually would appeal.
“I had attended so, so many meetings over the years, I didn’t know what to expect really,” he said. “A friend of mine called me after the meeting to tell me. I had to tell the guy, ‘You aren’t kidding me, are you?’ ”
Christina C. Rawley, a member of the Falmouth Climate Action Team, called the announcement “tragic.”
“It’s very upsetting and extremely disappointing,” she said. “We’re all sort of [taken aback] by it and trying to decide now what is the best way forward.”
Ms. Rawley’s group fought to keep the turbine rotors spinning, collecting signatures for a petition article to put before Town Meeting and writing letters to the editor. They believed town hall was committed to preventing climate change, she said.
A handful of outspoken people negated years of study and work, Ms. Rawley said. Worse, they may have tarnished the concept of wind turbines in Falmouth and elsewhere, she said.
“It shows how difficult it is, not only in Falmouth but across the Cape, across all of Massachusetts, and you know this is a ripple that [can spread] across the nation,” Ms. Rawley said.
For residents like Julie Palmieri, the effective end of Falmouth’s twin turbines has not tarred her image of renewable energy. A close watcher of the debate—Ms. Palmieri even sat by during much of a closed-door executive session held by selectmen earlier in July waiting for a possible decision—she is sympathetic to the neighbors and supportive of solar and wind power.
“We all were in favor of the wind turbines when they first started,” she said. “We didn’t realize what they did to people when they’re too close. Not enough research was done. I don’t know, we just thought we’ll get the power from the wind and that was it—maybe a little bit of noise, but nothing as bad as what happened.”
Ms. Palmieri, who heats the water in her home via solar panels, supports the town’s other green initiatives, like restricting plastic bags.
Mr. Funfar, too, is supportive of renewable energy, despite having spent more than $100,000 on legal fees trying to remove Wind 1 and Wind 2. Likewise, he does not harbor any anger toward the town.
“We still love this town,” Mr. Funfar said. “I also would like to say I don’t have anything against wind energy, but companies and towns better look out where they site these turbines.”
Ms. Rawley said she and fellow turbine supporters were “deeply affected” by the struggles abutters dealt with during the debate.
“We are not coldhearted people by any means. We are warmhearted people who have a very different understanding and it was never anybody’s intent to harm anyone,” Ms. Rawley said. “How does a town or a nation make [its] decisions is what is at question here. How can we possibly meet the problems that are outstanding in our society?”
As selectmen and town officials work out what to do with the immobilized turbines and the financial obligations incurred to erect the pair in Falmouth, Ms. Rawley and Mr. Funfar plan for the future.
Ms. Rawley said her group must develop new strategies to make Falmouth environmentally friendly. This experience serves as a learning opportunity, she said.
Mr. Funfar is looking forward to spending time gardening with his grandchildren.
“It’s rather euphoric,” he said. “We had a very good life here in our retirement, and I had my grandkids up here all the time helping me in my yard, and we can get some of that back now.”