Voters reject wind power project moratorium
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By Tom Groening
FREEDOM – Residents defeated a proposed six-month moratorium on wind power projects at a special town meeting Thursday, voting 79-44 on an “ought not to pass” motion.
The moratorium was suggested in response to a proposal by Maine Energy Aggregation Co. LLC and its affiliate, Competitive Energy Services, both based in Portland, to build three wind turbines on a 76-acre field on Beaver Ridge.
The companies will lease the site from Knox farmer Ron Price. They applied for permits to build the towers and turbines earlier this year, but voluntarily suspended their bid in April when residents indicated their intent to develop ordinances by which to evaluate the project.
The ordinance was completed and adopted earlier this summer. Town officials expect the companies to resubmit their application at Thursday night’s planning board meeting.
Three 260-foot-high towers are proposed, on which three-bladed turbines would be affixed. Each turbine blade would be 130 feet long, rising nearly 400 feet off the ground at apex. The turbines would generate 41/2 megawatts of electricity annually.
In all, the project would require a $10 million investment.
Resident Read Brugger, a proponent of the wind power project, was part of a four-month effort by the town planning board to draft the first site review ordinance. Brugger said Friday that he and other non-board members attended weekly meetings to work on the document.
“The ordinance reflects unanimous planning board consensus,” he said Friday.
But Selectman Steve Bennett, who argued Thursday night in favor of adopting the moratorium, contends there are problems with the document. He wanted the town to take another few months to revise it.
Among Bennett’s criticisms:
. That the noise section of the ordinance is unenforceable.
. There is no maximum height to the wind turbines.
He said Friday he wants a “fall zone” to be established which would be kept clear in case the towers and turbines ever toppled.
The ordinance calls for a 330-foot setback, which Bennett said means the towers could fall onto neighboring land.
“There should at least be a fall zone,” he said.
Bennett also objected that no survey is required, that the appeals process is not consistent with another appeals process in town and that the planning board can waive certain development standards.
“I am against these wind turbines,” he said, “but I’m more against bad ordinances.”
Brugger countered that Bennett could have attended the weekly work sessions to influence development of the ordinance.
“If Steve had anything he wanted in [the ordinance], he could have come and talked about it, and he failed to participate,” Brugger said. He disputed Bennett’s complaints about the ordinance.
Brugger also disagreed with the notion that wind power supporters wrote the ordinance to satisfy the applicants.
“These are my neighbors,” he said. He said he would not sell them out by adopting relaxed standards.
He also expressed doubt that the companies will meet a requirement that noise at 1,000 feet from the towers or at the nearest dwelling not exceed 45 decibels. The applicants wanted the noise level to be set at 50 decibels, he said.
“I personally hope it goes through. I hope it meets those standards. But if they can’t, then it won’t get approved,” Brugger said.
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