FREEDOM — Disputes and horror stories around the construction of three wind turbines in 2008 inspired many towns to pass ordinances that all but banned similar developments.
Freedom wasn’t one of them — voters have passed on wind regulations at least three times — but the planning board is bringing the most recent wind ordinance back for a fresh look and Chairman Bill Pickford thinks it might have a chance.
“It was pretty much fresh in everybody’s minds then, because [the wind turbines] out there came in without [an ordinance],” he said.
Pickford said the board is not expecting to revise the ordinance, which was narrowly defeated in 2013, but will take public comments into consideration.
The major feature of the ordinance is a requirement that wind turbines be set back one mile from residences. Neighboring towns adopted this standard as a precaution against noise and shadow nuisances like those reported by some Freedom residents. Developers and wind energy advocates have said the mile setback amounts to a ban, given the population density of the area.
Pickford said the ordinance also includes provisions specific to Beaver Ridge Wind, but the decision to bring it back to the table was not based on any pending plans by the company or any other developer.
“It’s a void in our current ordinances that we don’t have one,” he said. “If somebody came before the town, we’d have to do a moratorium to prepare a wind ordinance.”
Jackson, Thorndike and Dixmont did just that in response to inquiries from developers hoping to tap into points farther north on the same geologic ridge that is home to BRW. Frankfort enacted a moratorium in response to a proposal to put turbines on Mount Waldo and later passed an ordinance that put an end to the project.
Prospect, Northport, Stockton Springs and Unity were among area towns that adopted wind ordinances preemptively.
Freedom had no rules governing commercial development when Portland-based Competitive Energy Services approached the town in 2006. Residents subsequently passed a commercial review ordinance, then repealed it to make way for the wind development.
The town nixed a wind energy moratorium in 2011. In 2013 voters adopted a revised commercial development review ordinance, but rejected a separate wind energy ordinance.
Pickford said the planning board solicited public comment during its Sept. 7 meeting and will continue to hear residents’ ideas and concerns.
“We haven’t had any outcry from people who want changes on it,” he said. “If there are people who’d like to see it changed, we’re waiting to hear that.”
He noted there wasn’t much public outcry the first time, but said the vote was held during a regular election and may have been defeated by a grassroots campaign.
“Somehow the people got convinced through some way that it was something that shouldn’t pass,” he said.
Barring any new concerns brought to the planning board, Pickford said he’s prepared to present the original ordinance to voters. That could happen at a special town meeting or Freedom’s annual meeting in March, he said.
The Freedom Planning Board will hold its next meeting Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. in the town office.