Judge Orders Falmouth to Run Wind Turbines on 12-Hour Schedule

Two of Falmouth's wind turbines, one at the Falmouth Wastewater Treatment Facility (left) and the other at the Falmouth Technology Park, as viewed from the Chapoquoit Beach parking lot.GENE M. MARCHAND/ENTERPRISE - Two of Falmouth's wind turbines, one at the Falmouth Wastewater Treatment Facility (left) and the other at the Falmouth Technology Park, as viewed from the Chapoquoit Beach parking lot.

Barnstable Superior Court Judge Christopher J. Muse has ordered the town to operate its wind turbines at the Wastewater Treatment Facility for 12 hours per day except on Sundays starting today.

The preliminary injunction was filed late last night and requires the town to turn off the machines from 7 PM to 7 AM daily. Additionally, Judge Muse’s decision calls on the turbines to be turned off on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

The move follows what was a supposed agreement reached two weeks ago in Barnstable Superior Court between Falmouth’s attorneys and lawyers representing neighbors living near the turbines. That agreement—to reduce the operating hours of the turbines from 16 hours per day to 12 hours per day as a temporary move toward a more comprehensive settlement—was tied to the town’s appeal of the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals decision in May upholding Neil P. and Elizabeth Andersen’s claim that the wind turbines constitute a nuisance. The Andersens live near the turbines on Blacksmith Shop Road and have been outspoken in their criticism of the machines and impacts they have had on their lives shortly after the first, Wind 1, became operational in March 2010.

Since that time selectmen have refused to return to the 12-hour operating schedule, something that the board’s chairman Brent V.W. Putnam announced at Town Meeting last Wednesday.

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This morning Town Counsel Frank K. Duffy Jr. said he was unsure why the board could not come to an agreement on the matter. “In the end we wound up exactly where we would have been, turning them on from 7 AM to 7 PM,” he said.

In his ruling Judge Muse wrote that the “town’s actions, (or inactions), require this court to employ its direction in ruling upon the Andersens’ motion...”

He later noted that the Andersens “have a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their position that the ZBA’s decision that both turbines created a nuisance” and that if the court did not file a preliminary injunction “the Andersens will suffer irreparable physical and psychological harm.”

Judge Muse said that while the town may suffer financial penalties for the reduced energy production of its turbines, the Andersens would benefit from his proposed operational model, noting that “they will experience sufficient periods of time to sleep and relax in their home, with a commensurate increase in the use and enjoyment of their impacted property.”

Mr. Duffy said the town has the right to appeal Judge Muse’s injunction within 30 days. He said he believed that Town Manager Julian M. Suso would be asking selectmen to hold an executive session to discuss that matter further.

If the board does not vote to file an appeal, he said, Falmouth would have to wait until Judge Muse either releases the preliminary injunction or the court case goes to trial. Mr. Duffy said this case is not scheduled to go to trial until December 2014 at the earliest. “For what it is worth we will continue talking to neighbors about reaching a solution,” he said. 

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