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Wind turbine moratorium up for vote in Jackson

Residents will head to a special town meeting Tuesday, Jan. 6, to consider approving a six-month moratorium on wind turbines. The vote comes as a third company has expressed interest in erecting wind turbines on town-owned property. ...The warrant for the Jan. 6 meeting states there will be "discussion on the status and findings regarding proposals received," although there is not a specific article calling for a vote on the proposals. There is, however, an article asking voters if they will approve a moratorium "on the issuing of permits allowing for wind turbine construction and development."

Residents will head to a special town meeting Tuesday, Jan. 6, to consider approving a six-month moratorium on wind turbines.

The vote comes as a third company has expressed interest in erecting wind turbines on town-owned property.

Tuesday's special town meeting is being held as the result of a meeting this past fall. At that November meeting, residents authorized town officials to "receive and evaluate proposals" from wind turbine companies interested in leasing the town property, then instructed the officials to "report the findings back within 60 days at a special town meeting."

The warrant for the Jan. 6 meeting states there will be "discussion on the status and findings regarding proposals received," although there is not a specific article calling for a vote on the proposals.

There is, however, an article asking voters if they will approve a moratorium "on the issuing of permits allowing for wind turbine construction and development."

Supporters of the moratorium say such a move is necessary in order to give the town time to "develop and implement" amendments to the town's land use ordinance - amendments which would deal specifically with wind turbines and issues that relate to... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Residents will head to a special town meeting Tuesday, Jan. 6, to consider approving a six-month moratorium on wind turbines.

The vote comes as a third company has expressed interest in erecting wind turbines on town-owned property.

Tuesday's special town meeting is being held as the result of a meeting this past fall. At that November meeting, residents authorized town officials to "receive and evaluate proposals" from wind turbine companies interested in leasing the town property, then instructed the officials to "report the findings back within 60 days at a special town meeting."

The warrant for the Jan. 6 meeting states there will be "discussion on the status and findings regarding proposals received," although there is not a specific article calling for a vote on the proposals.

There is, however, an article asking voters if they will approve a moratorium "on the issuing of permits allowing for wind turbine construction and development."

Supporters of the moratorium say such a move is necessary in order to give the town time to "develop and implement" amendments to the town's land use ordinance - amendments which would deal specifically with wind turbines and issues that relate to them. Others say existing town regulations have the effect of prohibiting wind turbine construction, thereby making the moratorium a moot point.

The language in the moratorium ordinance states it is necessary because "areas of the town of Jackson are suddenly under threat of increased development pressure from industrial windpower turbines... [and that] this development pressure was unanticipated and has not been adequately provided for in the town's current land use ordinance."

Selectors spent most of their Dec. 30 meeting focused on the matter of wind turbines. They first met with representatives from Ra Power Solutions, a Maine-based company focused on alternative and renewable energy.

Three representatives from Ra Power were at the meeting and expressed to selectors an interest in possibly having a wind turbine project in the town woodlot, a 350-acre parcel of land in the northwest corner of town. Ra Power is the third company to express an interest in that possibility, joining Massachusetts-based Citizens Energy Corporation and Competitive Energy Services, which is based in Portland.

Those other companies - Citizens and CES - have each secured a number of leases with different property owners along the ridge that runs through the northwest corner of town. Both of those companies are looking at erecting a number of turbines along the ridge, which stretches from Mt. Harris in Dixmont at the northern end to Files Hill in Thorndike at the southern end.

The town-owned land in Jackson sits in the midst of what several people have described as a "checkerboard" - the string of properties running along the ridge, some of which have lease agreements with Citizens and others with lease agreements with CES.

Since most of those other properties are committed to either Citizens or CES, Selectwoman Cindy Ludden asked Ra Power representatives if it was realistic that they could do a project of their own on just the town-owned property. Rick Benoit, president of Ra Power, said it was realistic.

Selectors explained to the Ra Power representatives at the Dec. 30 meeting that they would be opening proposals from the two other companies, Citizens and CES, that night - proposals that were submitted following the November meeting. Ra Power officials said they, too, were interested in submitting a proposal.

After providing the company officials with the basic information required for a proposal, selectors advised them to draft a proposal as quickly as possible and get it to Bill Kelly, a Belfast attorney who has been hired to represent the Town of Jackson.

Kelly, according to selectors, will be reviewing the proposals prior to the Jan. 6 meeting and then making a presentation that night to explain what the proposals entail.

Selectors opened the proposals from Citizens and CES after Ra Power officials left. Before they left, the Ra Power officials agreed it would give them an unfair advantage if they were to learn what the other companies had included in their proposals.

Ludden later told audience members the proposals were public documents since they had been opened during a public meeting, and said she would provide copies to anyone who asked. But she asked people to understand where selectors were coming from and to wait for the information to be presented at the Jan. 6 meeting, so as not to create an unfair advantage for one company.

That happened last year, Ludden said, when one of the first two companies made a proposal to the town. The other company got wind of that proposal, she said, and made a better offer. That essentially forced the process to start over, since one company had gained an advantage over another.

After the representatives from Ra Power left, selectors continued discussing turbine-related matters with members of the town's wind power subcommittee, which is an arm of the Jackson Planning Board.

Both the planning board and the subcommittee voted to endorse the proposed moratorium, 6-0 in the case of the planning board and 11-0 in the case of the subcommittee. On each vote, one member abstained.

The several members of the subcommittee present at the Dec. 30 meeting asked the board for its opinion on the moratorium. The board declined several opportunities to do so, because it said it did not feel it was appropriate or necessary.

Ludden later said she had told people she could not support the moratorium.

"No one asked me 'Why?' though," Ludden said. "I don't feel you need it [the moratorium] because we don't have the ordinances that allow it [wind turbines] anyway. It's [the moratorium is] moot."

After additional discussion, Ludden later asked subcommittee member Heather Selin if Selin would be happy if she supported the moratorium. Selin said that would make her happy, and Ludden replied, "I will support your moratorium."

Selectman David Greeley said he had no particular problem with the moratorium, but that he wanted to keep the process moving along - "to take it out of the realm of just talk about it, talk about it, and actually do something," he said.

Ludden also said she would call for a secret ballot vote on the moratorium article at the special town meeting, which those in attendance all seemed to think was a good idea.

Although there was agreement between the two groups on the secret ballot suggestion, the discussion was a bit strained when talk turned to other topics.

Both groups, for example, seemed to think that the other group was working against it to a certain degree. Ludden said some members of the subcommittee had taken "pot shots at the selectmen." She said that made her believe that the group was hostile.

Subcommittee members assured Ludden that although there had been a few comments of that nature, the people who made them were called on it, which Ludden seemed glad to learn.

For their part, some of the subcommittee members suggested selectors should have taken a more proactive role in the whole process. One subcommittee member suggested the selectors were not familiar enough with the town's comprehensive plan, which drew a response from Selectman John Work.

"It's not up to us to know the comprehensive plan," said Work. "It's up to the planning board to know it, and it's up to the code enforcement officer to enforce it. It's up to us [the selectors] to back up the CEO."

At one point, as discussion grew heated between the two groups, Ludden said she was going to end the meeting because the conversation was "not healthy for anyone" present. Such a move was averted, however, and the two sides continued to talk.

The contentious issue of conflicts of interest was also brought up. Greeley, who has signed a lease with one of the wind turbine companies, previously acknowledged he has a conflict of interest in the matter and he would not be voting as a selectman on any vote relating to the wind turbine issue.

Subcommittee members wanted Greeley to go another step, by removing himself from any discussions on the issue. They said that is the requirement for people at the state Legislature level, and that although Greeley is a municipal rather than legislative official, he should follow the same standard.

Ludden said Greeley has a "wealth of information" and that she and Work both appreciate having him as a resource. When subcommittee members said they thought Greeley should additionally disclose the terms of the lease agreement he signed, as a show of good faith to townspeople, Ludden also chafed at that suggestion.

"I personally feel that it's none of your business what his contract is," Ludden said.

All three wind turbine companies have stated they require leaseholders to sign a nondisclosure agreement. Subcommittee members, however, wanted Greeley to ask the company he has signed with for permission to make details of his lease public.

Although subcommittee members did not get Greeley to make any of the concessions they asked for, they made a point to say they did not think he had done anything illegal. Selin, for example, said she thought Greeley was acting "entirely legally."

The special town meeting will take place Tuesday, Jan. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the Jackson Community Center on the Village Road.


Source: http://waldo.villagesoup.co...

JAN 4 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/18467-wind-turbine-moratorium-up-for-vote-in-jackson
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