Falmouth Voters To Get Say On Controversial Turbines

This article is more than 8 years old.

Voters in a Cape Cod town will get their say on whether to tear down two town-owned wind turbines some consider health hazards.

On Wednesday, the Town Meeting assembly approved a motion that sets a vote on the issue for May.

The decision comes a day after Town Meeting refused to authorize spending $14 million to tear down the turbines.

The motion approved Wednesday asks voters whether the town should spend the money needed to remove the turbines, said board of selectmen chair Kevin Murphy. Even if voters say the town should remove the turbines, that spending can't happen unless Town Meeting changes its Tuesday decision and authorizes it.

But Murphy said the May vote will at least reveal what the people want.

The mental and physical ailments opponents blame on the turbine range from headaches and vertigo to severe depression. National wind advocates say no credible science has linked such problems to turbines.

Turbine opponents say if they win in the upcoming town-wide vote, that could pressure some Town Meeting members to switch sides and authorize the spending to remove the turbines. Seven votes would have changed Tuesday's outcome.

"I don't see how the Town Meeting could go against the wishes of the town. There would be outrage," said turbine opponent Malcolm Donald.

Both turbines are located at the town's wastewater treatment facility; the first began running in 2010.

Noise complaints eventually led the town to shut the blades down for 12 hours at night. Turbine supporters say that's an example of the measures that can keep the turbines running while addressing neighbors' concerns.

Supporters also say there's strong, silent support for the turbines in Falmouth and the renewable energy and revenues they produce.

A vote to remove the turbines would make Falmouth the country's first community to do so, and renewable energy advocates worry that would set a terrible precedent.

Town Meeting member Kathy Driscoll, who opposes dismantling the turbines, said that body has repeatedly voted to keep the turbines running, and she had hoped Tuesday's decision would settle the issue. Still, she said, she welcomes another vote and said it's not clear to her if one side has an advantage.

This article was originally published on April 11, 2013.

This program aired on April 11, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.