FALMOUTH — The finish line is within sight for a special-permit application process on one of Falmouth's twin wind turbines.
The public hearing on Wind 1 officially closed at 4:30 p.m. Monday, Zoning Administrator Sari Budrow said, and the Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a rare Saturday morning session on Feb. 27 to deliberate on the application, which had its first hearing in November and which has produced hundreds of pages of documents for the five board members hearing the matter to review.
The board meets Thursday nights and schedules public hearings several weeks in advance, making March 3 the next available date on the calendar, Budrow said at the hearing on Thursday. But the board opted for a Saturday morning to give them more time to deliberate and to avoid a further continuation.
“It's important to keep this fresh in everyone's mind,” Budrow said Monday, adding that she has been “inundated” with additional material.
The turbines at the town's wastewater treatment facility on Blacksmith Shop Road have been a source of controversy since they were installed. 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.
The town is applying for the permit on the 397-foot-tall turbine known as Wind 1 five years after it began spinning, after the state's Appeals Court ruled last year that the machine, which helps power the treatment plant, should have received a permit before it was constructed. 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.
While the special permit application process is under way, Wind 1 is shut down per a cease-and-desist order issued by the zoning board against the town.
Last week, attorneys for the neighbors fighting to shut down both turbines and the town presented their final arguments to the zoning board.
“I'm not looking for two votes to deny. Two votes to deny would be sufficient because a super majority is needed,” said Christopher Senie, one of two lawyers representing neighbors of the turbines. “I'm looking for a consensus. I'm looking for a consensus that we reset wind energy in Massachusetts.”
The Falmouth turbines have caused problems for wind turbine projects across the state, he said, leaving local boards unsure of how to proceed because of concerns over appropriate setbacks for the devices.
“The way out of this mess is not to force Wind 1 into a special permit with conditions that don't work,” he said.
Diane Tillotson, a Boston lawyer who was hired as special counsel in wind turbine matters for the town, said the turbine's benefits outweigh its drawbacks, which she said were “relatively minor” and could be controlled.
“This turbine promotes clean energy. It is fiscally and financially economically feasible,” she said. “It reduces carbon and gas emissions. ... This board and this town have been very forward thinking at looking at the benefits that can be provided and made very clear decisions to site the turbine and power the wastewater plant with clean, renewable energy.”