Falmouth, Mass., residents got a chance this week to make their voices heard on the contentious issue of the town’s two big and allegedly noisy, headache-inducing, sleep-robbing, toothache-causing wind turbines.
They said yes to wind – rather loudly.
Question 2 on Tuesday’s Falmouth ballot would have authorized the costly “decommissioning, dismantling and removing” of two Vestas 1.65-megawatt wind turbines at the local wastewater treatment plant. The measure failed miserably, with the nays swamping the yeas by a 2-1 margin among the 8,941 ballots cast [PDF].
As far as anyone could tell, this was the first time wind turbines had come up for a public vote like this.
It was a familiar divide: One group backing the removal said the turbines “had resulted in adverse effects on families including health, economic matters, and neighbors’ quality of life”; turbine supporters, meanwhile, said that removing the turbines, at a cost of $14 million, would be a rash reaction to a relatively small number of complaints.
A report [PDF] commissioned by Falmouth’s selectmen said that complaints began to flow “soon after Wind 1 began operations on March 23, 2010,” with neighbors citing “noise, health and safety concerns” (Wind 2 went into operation in February 2012). The report said that 32 to 41 families reported negative health effects, mostly sleep disruption. This in a town with a population of more than 31,000.
The town has attempted to appease the anti-turbine parties by curtailing operations, both during strong wind events and at night, moves critics clearly found unsatisfactory.
On its website, Windwise Massachusetts, which had campaigned against the turbines, said “(t)he lopsided vote on Question 2 in Falmouth on May 21st was sobering.”