By Sean F. Driscoll
FALMOUTH — One of the town's twin wind turbines will be shut down after the Board of Selectmen voted Monday night to comply with a recent order to temporarily stop its operation.
During a closed-door meeting, the board voted to appeal the Sept. 17 cease-and-desist order issued by the Zoning Board of Appeals while also voting to comply with that order in the meantime, according to a news release sent shortly before 9 p.m. by Town Manager Julian Suso. The ZBA had ordered Wind 1, one of the two turbines, shut down while the town seeks a special permit that would allow it to continue to run.
The action caught opponents of the turbines by surprise. Selectmen were scheduled to meet both Monday and Tuesday in executive session to discuss appealing the ZBA ruling; town officials had previously indicated that the turbines would continue to run during the appeal process.
"I'm surprised they're going to shut it off. I'm happy they are," said Todd Drummey, one of several neighbors who has fought the turbines since they were first installed in 2009.
Attorney Christopher Senie, along with attorney J. Alexander Watt, had filed for an independent cease-and-desist order before Barnstable Superior Court Judge Robert Rufo after town officials announced Wind 1 would run despite the ZBA order. Monday night, Senie, who has represented Drummey in several lawsuits against the town regarding the turbines, said the order was valid and he was pleased the town decided to follow it.
"I think it's the right thing to do and I'm glad they're doing it," he said.
The town's twin, 397-foot-tall turbines were erected at the wastewater treatment plant on Blacksmith Shop Road in 2009 and have been a source of controversy ever since. Neighbors have complained about health effects from their operation and have used a number of avenues to try to shut them down.
This year, the scales have tipped firmly in the neighbors' favor. In February, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals ruled that Wind 1 was constructed without proper zoning approval. The state's Supreme Judicial Court later declined to review the case, forcing the town to apply for a special permit for a turbine it's been running for years.
Until the zoning process ends, which could take months, neighbors wanted Wind 1 turned off. Rufo initially declined to order the turbine shut down, but the ZBA voted 4-1 on Sept. 17 to issue a cease-and-desist order, overruling Zoning Enforcement Officer Eladio Gore's decision not to stop the turbine's operation. The town has until Oct. 13 to file its appeal of the ZBA ruling in court.
Senie said Monday he was unsure if the cease-and-desist request filed with Rufo would still be necessary. It is scheduled for a hearing at 2 p.m. Thursday.
Before the Board of Selectmen met in executive session Monday, it met briefly in public and voted 5-0 to hold a special town meeting Nov. 10, the day after the annual meeting, to consider articles related to the turbines. The board voted to keep the warrant open for 24 hours, or until shortly after 7 p.m. Tuesday. That's a narrow window for any citizen's petition articles, which require 100 signatures from registered voters, but the board will submit two articles prepared by Town Manager Julian Suso related to the turbines, Chairman Doug Jones said.
One article will concern the town's turbine bylaw, and the other will deal with the loss of revenue stemming from the shut down of one or both turbines, Jones said. The specifics of each article, however, won't be revealed until Tuesday, when the board meets again to close and approve the warrant.
Tuesday's meeting will be held at Falmouth Public Library, 300 Main St., but Jones said the town clerk's office will remain open until the warrant is closed to accept any petition articles that might be submitted.