Articles filed under Zoning/Planning from Maine
Members of the Board of Appeals asked sharp questions Thursday as they continued to review the wind power project proposed by Competitive Energy Services of Portland. Neighboring landowners have hired Bangor lawyer Edmond Bearor to press their case against the $12 million project, which would site three 400-foot-tall wind turbines atop Beaver Ridge to generate electricity for as many as 2,000 homes. As the board began to discuss the Planning Board’s decision to waive a requirement that CES prepare a storm water management plan, Addison Chase questioned whether the town’s code enforcement officer could adequately oversee construction activities on the site and the discontinued road that leads to it.
As two companies press ahead on projects bringing natural gas to Boston through offshore terminals, a third group is also looking to the sea for a new source of energy — a 140-mile underwater electric cable from Maine to South Boston. The project, which could bring enough electricity into the Hub to meet the needs of about 500,000 homes, has only started to run the gantlet of state and federal approvals and isn’t expected to be in service before 2013.
Wind power potential in the mountains of Maine is only a fraction of the wind power potential just offshore from the 2500 miles of Maine coastline. Any wind power siting study done for Maine should acknowledge and explore this fact. Rep. Tom Saviello of Wilton has submitted a bill, An Act To Determine The Most Appropriate Sites For Windpower Facilities, that calls upon the legislature to commission a wind power siting study for Maine. Let’s slow down the “gold rush” mentality surrounding wind power in Maine and take a few months to deliberate sound and thoughtful solutions.
The appeal by disgruntled neighbors of a proposed wind turbine project in Freedom moved into its second session in as many weeks Thursday evening with disparaging “earwitness” testimony about the disturbing sound the spinning rotor blades are said to make. In the latest round before the town appeals board, it was also revealed a federal postal investigator was in town earlier this week looking into what happened to some notices of appeal of the project supposedly mailed last month to the town office by a Bangor attorney that by all accounts never arrived at their destination. Perrin Todd drove three and a half hours Tuesday from his home in Mars Hill to tell about what it’s like to live next-door to an operating wind farm. What he had to say was not encouraging for Steve Bennett and other property owners near the Beaver Ridge site where Competitive Energy Services (CES), a national firm with offices in Portland, is prepared to invest up to $12 million to erect three1.5 MW tower-mounted wind turbines on a 75-acre parcel owned by local farmer Ron Price.
Opponents of the wind turbine project atop Beaver Ridge wrapped up their case Thursday, Feb. 8, before the board of appeals. Bearor invited Perrin Todd, a resident of Mars Hill, to come to Freedom and describe the volume and quality of noise from wind turbines recently installed there. Ultimately, there will be 28 turbines strung along the mountain for which the Aroostook County town is named. Richard Silkman, a partner in CES. Silkman said the two projects were so different that there was little to be gained from Todd’s testimony. “[His] comments are about a project that is not on Beaver Ridge, not even in the same county,” said Silkman. If appeals board members considered Todd’s comments to be valuable, said Silkman, they should also hear about the hundreds of other wind turbine projects across the United States. Furthermore, said Silkman, the noise limits set by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for the Mars Hill project were far higher than those allowed by the Commercial Development Review Ordinance in Freedom. “You’re absolutely right; the DEP has higher limits,” countered Bearor. “Mr. Todd is a living example [of the impact] of that.”
FREEDOM — Perrin Todd’s home near the wind turbine site in Mars Hill has been invaded, not by thieves or pests, but something equally annoying. “It’s a very troubling noise,” Todd told the town’s board of appeals at Thursday’s meeting. “It’s a disturbing noise.” Attorney Ed Bearor, who represents Steve Bennett and others who are appealing the planning board’s December decision to allow three electricity-generating turbines on Beaver Ridge, wrapped up his argument on Thursday, leaving the decision of whether to overturn the planning boards decision in the hands of the board of appeals. Todd, whose home is 2,100 feet removed from the nearest turbine, more than double the distance of the home closest to the proposed Beaver Ridge turbine, urged the board to use greater caution than town officials in Mars Hill had used.
In the Aroostook County town of Mars Hill, 28 wind turbines will soon be generating electricity. Even before they begin commercial operation, however, the windmills are generating considerable controversy. The biggest issue is noise.
The rejection of the proposed Redington wind power project will undoubtedly bring loud howls of pain from the project’s advocates. This is because the symbolism of wind turbines churning out electricity with no pollution and CO2 emissions is a powerful vision to us all. However, the issue that Maine Mountain Power and its supporters did not take into account is that there are some places in Maine where such mammoth facilities just do not belong.
FREEDOM — The company that hopes to erect three wind turbines on Beaver Ridge worked on the cheap when it submitted its application to the Planning Board, according to attorney Ed Bearor. “It’s a mystery to me how a $10-$12 million project can be on such a skinflint budget when it comes to getting approval,” said Bearor, who represents Steve Bennett and other property abutters opposed to the project, during Thursday’s appeals board meeting. The board, which is considering overturning the Planning Board’s December decision to approve the project, was still meeting as of 8:30 p.m.
FREEDOM — The board of appeals is set to begin hearing arguments on three proposed wind turbines on Thursday. The first of five scheduled meetings is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the basement of the First Congregational Church. A meeting originally scheduled for Friday has been canceled, said Addison Chase, chairman of the appeals board. Selectmen agreed to hire Waterville attorney Al Stevens to guide the appeals board through its deliberations, Chase said.
Kurt Adams, chairman of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, said that with the New England power grid heavily dependent on power from fossil fuels, more wind energy would be good for Maine and the region. But while the commission generally favors wind power for economic and environmental reasons, Adams said translating those benefits to reality will not be easy. “Yesterday’s decision reflects the challenge wind developers will have finding suitable sites,” Adams said.
The surprising rejection on Wednesday of a proposed wind farm near Rangeley sends one clear message to landowners with development plans for Maine’s North Woods. Members of Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission aren’t afraid to make up their own minds about what activities are allowed by the strict rules that protect the 10 million acres of unorganized territory. Neither widespread support for wind power nor a strong endorsement by LURC’s own staff swayed the commissioners in this case. They effectively voted 6-1 against the Redington wind farm after citing concerns about its visual and environmental effects.
“As a practical matter, this was a denial,” Commission Chairman E. Bart Harvey III of Millinocket said after the meeting. “We simply have to memorialize that in a document that explains the reasons for denial and vote on it to approve it. I think we concluded the impact on resources is in excess of what we would be allowed in LURC’s comprehensive plan, regulations and rules.”
In a decision that could have wide ramifications for the future of wind power in Maine, the Land Use Regulation Commission on Wednesday rejected a plan to place 30 turbines on two western mountains.
FARMINGTON–The Maine Land Use Regulation Commission voted, 6-1 against rezoning 1,004 mountaintop acres in northern Franklin County for a 30-turbine wind-energy project today. Only commissioner Stephen Wight, of Newry, supported the rezoning request. The commission's staff had previously recommended the rezoning be approved.
A seven-member citizen board will rule Wednesday on a wind power project that would be built on ridgelines that environmentalists say are rare habitat and home to threatened species. The Land Use Regulation Commission will meet at 9:30 a.m. in Farmington to rule on the application by Maine Mountain Power LLC to rezone about 1,000 acres on Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble Mountain to allow the construction of 30 turbines, each 400 feet high. The meeting is scheduled to take place in the Olsen Student Center at the University of Maine at Farmington. Environmentalists have strongly criticized a recommendation by the commission staff in favor of the $130 million project. The commission usually follows the staff recommendation. The land use agency acts as the planning board for the unorganized territories, an area that makes up roughly half of Maine.
An element of mystery has entered the story of the increasingly controversial Competitive Energy Services (CES) wind turbine project proposed for Freedom’s Beaver Ridge. Potentially critical mail apparently went missing on its way from a lawyer’s office to the town office earlier this month. As a result, 27 local residents unhappy with what they see as significant negative effects that would result from the $12 million project now fear they might be denied their opportunity to mount an appeal.
A group of environmental and hiking organizations claimed Thursday that a recommendation by the staff of Maine’s wilderness zoning board to approve a controversial wind power project in the state’s western mountains is illegal. But the groups, including Maine Audubon and the Appalachian Mountain Club, stopped short of vowing to initiate a court challenge if the Land Use Regulation Commission gives the green light to the plan to build 30 wind turbines on Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble Mountain. LURC is scheduled to vote on Maine Mountain Power’s application Wednesday in Farmington. The commission usually, but not always, goes along with staff recommendations.
FREEDOM — The board of appeals has scheduled hearings on a proposed $10 million wind turbine project for next month, but whether the board ever gets to hear the appeal remains to be seen. Ron Price, who owns the Beaver Ridge property approved for the electricity-generating turbines, argued in a letter submitted to the town on Tuesday that the opponents’ appeal was not properly submitted and should be dismissed. The town’s planning board last month approved Portland-based Competitive Energy Services’ plan to erect three turbines, each 390 feet tall, on Price’s property on Beaver Ridge. The turbines would produce up to 10 million kilowatt hours each year — enough to power 2,000 homes, according to the company’s proposal. Competitive Energy hopes to complete the project by the end of 2008. Steve Bennett and his daughter, Erin Bennett-Wade, and their spouses appealed the planning board’s decision with a notice turned in to the town office on Jan. 6, one day before the 30-day deadline. However, their appeal did not include a site plan as required by the ordinance, according to Price.
A multibillion dollar Canadian energy company proposing to put 44 wind turbines on mountains in northern Franklin County got a mixed reception from county commissioners Tuesday. Two commissioners said they felt that using wind as an alternative energy source was a good idea. One was concerned about the effect on recreation of 400-foot tall, lighted turbines and miles of transmission lines. Another questioned whether the developer, TransCanada, might one day reroute the energy to Canada rather than the Northeastern U.S.