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Appeal takes wind out of turbines' sails

FREEDOM – A plan to put wind turbines on Beaver Ridge is becalmed again. Steve Bennett and his family have appealed the planning board’s approval of the project.

In a one page letter, Bangor Attorney Edmond Bearor, who represented the Bennetts throughout the planning board hearing process, listed numerous instances in which Bearor believes the planning board should have rejected the application for lack of evidence.

The letter was turned in to the town office on Saturday, the final day the ordinance allowed an appeal to be filed.

The appeals board has scheduled a meeting for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the town office. The board will use the meeting to organize the hearing process and set a date for the appeal to be heard, said Addison Chase, chairman of the board of appeals.

Like members of the planning board, who had never reviewed a commercial appeal under the scrutiny that the controversial wind turbine project has generated, Chase said his board will be traveling into unknown territory.

“We’ve never done something like this on the appeals board,” he said. “Usually they’re a one night affair and the guy withdraws his appeal.”

Portland-based Competitive Energy Services, LLC hopes to construct three electricity generating wind turbines on property leased from Ron and Susan Price on Beaver Ridge.

Calls to Bennett and Bearor were not returned.

In the notice of appeal, Bearor, who represents Bennett and his wife Judy, as well as Erin Bennett-Wade and Jason Wade, lists seven ordinance sections in which Bearor believes the planning board made improper finding, “without sufficient supportive evidence in the record…” The list includes sections such as storm water management and fire suppression, which the planning board worked through relatively quickly, and those on which the board spent a great deal of time, such as noise and protecting the scenic or natural beauty of the area.

The planning board hired an attorney to help guide it through the deliberation process and Chase has already contacted attorneys, one a friend and another through Maine Municipal Association, to help direct the appeals board.

The biggest dilemma facing the board, Chase said, is marrying two existing ordinances, one of which was adopted in 1990. The second, which was largely developed in response to Competitive Energy’s application and focuses on commercial development, was adopted last fall.

While Chase doubts the ordinances will conflict during the appeals process, they outline different timetables for appeals to be heard. The original ordinance gives the board 30 days to hear the appeal, while the ordinance passed last fall allows 45 days before the appeal is even scheduled.

If the appeals board can conduct an appellant hearing it could simply review the planing board’s decisions in the specific areas outlined in the appeal.

Regardless of the process, Andy Price is confident the appeals board will uphold the planning board’s decision.

“It does a good job of laying out how (the planning board) arrived at their final decision and how they went through the ordinance point by point, and went through all the issues,” Price said.

By Craig Crosby
Staff Writer Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel

Craig Crosby – 861-9253