DIXFIELD – The Board of Selectmen is expected to decide Dec. 14 how to proceed with bringing a Wind Energy Facility Ordinance to voters next June, Town Manager Carlo Puiia said Tuesday.
It would be the fourth time in over three years that residents have cast ballots on the measure to regulate wind power development.
Patriot Renewables LLC of Quincy, Mass., approached town officials in October 2010 about constructing 13 turbines on leased land on Col. Holman Ridge.
The town passed a wind energy development ordinance in November 2012 but it contained zoning restrictions that were unenforceable. In November 2014, a revised ordinance was rejected. On June 9, the Planning Board's original draft was also rejected.
In August, selectmen accepted a citizen petition to adopt the sound standards of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, including a limit of 42 decibels at night and 55 decibels during the day, for the ordinance.
Selectmen received conflicting opinions from Belfast lawyer Kristin Collins, who has helped edit previous drafts of the ordinance, and a lawyer with the Maine Municipal Association about whether they could put two ordinances before voters on June 14, 2016: One containing recommendations by the Planning Board and the other containing recommendations from petitioners.
To help them sort through the legal ramifications, selectmen sought an opinion from their attorney, Jennifer Kreckel. Her response was received Monday, and Board of Selectmen Chairman Hart Daley read it at Monday night's meeting.
Puiia said the board sought her advice on how to proceed with placing the request of the petitioners on a ballot and wanted to know their options.
Kreckel wrote in her letter that the citizen petition was “vague” and “failed to properly propose a ballot question.”
She said, "Since the petition is vague, the ordinance could be legally challenged by those who oppose development as being void, since it didn't comply with state statutes regarding a citizens petition. At the same time, if the board doesn't put it forward, petitioners may feel inclined to challenge decision.”
Kreckel suggested that the board put forward the ordinance “not based on the petition, but on their own desire to do it.”
“That will help minimize the risk of litigation against the board,” she wrote.
Krekel advised against placing both ordinances on the ballot.
“There shouldn't be an A, B, or C decision,” Kreckel said. “When the ordinance is placed before the people, it should be a yes or no question.”
Puiia said Tuesday that because of a potential challenge, selectmen are better off, if they are going to honor the intent of the petition and protect the town from the lawsuit and challenge . . . by saying we are going to place this ordinance on a warrant because we believe this was the intent of the petitioners."