Library from Maine
Selectmen on Thursday scheduled a workshop on a wind turbine ordinance, which will go to voters in June. The workshop will be held at 6 p.m. Feb. 24. Board members discussed whether to have an ordinance similar to one developed by a special wind ordinance committee last year, or to follow Maine State Planning Office regulations on such development.
After sitting through a grueling public hearing last week, at which more than 100 people testified, and sifting through 1,500 pages of documents submitted both pro and con on building two large municipal wind turbines off Freemans Way, the planning board Wednesday night wrestled with whether the project conformed to conditions laid out in the municipal turbine bylaw.
Debates such as this one about turbine noise and other wind-energy issues are expected to continue in Farmington and New Vineyard, where town officials have prepared ordinances to regulate wind energy within their respective borders. Voters will consider the proposals at annual town meetings in March and April.
Some of the biggest applause on Saturday was for Wendy Todd, who along with her husband has traveled throughout the state talking about how the Mars Hill wind project has affected her neighborhood. ..."We are tired but we are here and we are not going to grow weary in doing what is good," Todd told the group.
In the permit application filed with the town, it appears the wires are described as passing alongside the existing Central Maine Power Company utility wires. But in the application filed with the Land Use Regulation Commission, it's clear the wires deviate from the existing CMP lines. Erik Stumpfel, an attorney for Highland Wind from the firm Eaton Peabody, confirmed the developer intends to not follow the CMP corridor exactly.
Members of the town Wind Turbine Ordinance Committee and residents gained insight Wednesday night into how state regulations govern wind farms. They also learned that should they develop an ordinance that's more restrictive than Maine Department of Environmental Protection permitting rules for such development, if the two compare apples to apples, DEP will apply the stricter regulations when considering a developer's application.
Cassida said DEP now requires developers to make demonstrations during the length of the project to determine sound level compliance, which they didn't do with the Mars Hill project. In that 2001 project, DEP OK'd a variance to 50 decibels without realizing that it would adversely affect people. "If I could turn back time, I'd require that we do that differently," he said.
Selectmen have set a special meeting with a representative of Eaton Peabody Consulting Group LLC for 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9, at the town office to continue gathering information on the tax implications of a possible wind turbine project.
Voters will decide on a wind energy moratorium at their March 7 town meeting. The moratorium would give the town time to prepare an ordinance to cover any potential development of wind farm projects. A committee of about a dozen residents formed Monday to discuss how to handle potential future projects in a way that best protects the town.
"I want to encourage the town to make it a little stricter and adapt a 30-decibel limit," Knapp said. He cited the examples of noise complaints at Mars Hill and Vinalhaven's wind power turbine projects. And, he noted that the town of Phillips, which passed at last town meeting a comprehensive wind power zoning ordinance that, in part, was guided by a sound engineer's study and advice, has a noise limit set at 25 decibels."
When the Friends of Spruce Mountain saw their appeal to the Spruce Mountain Wind Project denied last week, the group's lawyer also presented a proposed amendment to Maine's noise rules in the state's Site Location Law. The result of a petition effort by the Maine-based Citizens' Task Force on Wind Power, the amendment would have the Maine Department of Environmental Protection apply different standards to wind turbine noise than to other industrial noise.
"One has to wonder if this was a truly nonpartisan independent group that was working on behalf of lowering energy costs," said Levinthal, "or if this was a political vehicle for the Democratic Party. "If an organization such as this is stacked with people who are clearly very active in one party and members of a certain party, you might be scratching your head if you're a Republican or independent as well."
Rufus Brown said it wasn't enough to let potentially problematic turbines be built before dealing with the consequences. He took offense to Smith's assertion that it was unfair to submit Patriot to another hearing. "That is exactly upside-down," Brown said. "It is fundamentally unfair to the people in this neighborhood to this project ... when there are so many uncertainties."
Brooksville voters enacted two energy-related ordinances in a special town meeting on January 27. The meeting lasted less than 20 minutes. The first ordinance established a 180-day moratorium on wind power development. The second authorized residents to participate in a federal/state loan program to finance energy efficiency improvements to their buildings.
Those appealing the wind project claim that such a project would have adverse affects on the area's economy, particularly as it relates to tourism. The appeal also lists objections to noise, shadow flicker, strobe lights, tree removal, potential dangers to birds and animals and a variety of other possible problems. This project is one of four Patriot Renewables LLC of Quincy, Mass., is planning for the Western Maine area.
On Monday night, selectmen voted to reject a new, lower value for a commercial wind project, in effect declining the developer's request to reduce the value of its property by $1.4 million. If the developer, Beaver Ridge Wind LLC, wishes to pursue the issue further, it may have to file an appeal with Waldo County Commissioners or the State Board of Property Tax Review.
For people who believe one of Maine's highest conservation priorities should be the preservation of the state's unorganized territories as the timberlands and outdoor-recreational lands they have traditionally been - and I count myself among those people - the greatest threat to the North Woods is large-scale development of any kind.
The town of Freedom is seeking an independent appraisal of the three-turbine Beaver Ridge Wind development following a request from the owner to have them reassessed at a lower value. Freedom - Two years after the wind turbines on Beaver Ridge in Freedom started turning, the often-controversial development is raising objections again - this time from the developer.
"The whole thing blew up," said Sen. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, who was a task force member. Biddeford Mayor Joanne Twomey had pulled out of the project, saying the entire plan was "putting lipstick on a pig," and accusing the Alliance of "greenwashing" what was essentially a project to get Casella stimulus money for its troublesome incinerator.
In their ongoing effort to retrofit a state wind ordinance template to local needs, selectmen Thursday night generated plenty of discussion on the issues of shadow flicker, safety setbacks and decommissioning, but few certainties.