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Wind power appeal generates controversy in Freedom  

The Freedom Board of Appeals has set out a timetable for its review of the Planning Board’s recent approval of the Beaver Ridge power project.

Led by Steve Bennett, a group of about two dozen abutters and others asked the appeals board in early January to overturn the decision to allow the $12 million project to go forward. Competitive Energy Services of Portland seeks to build three 400-foot-tall windmills atop the ridge to generate electricity for as many as 2,000 homes.

The appeals board gathered Tuesday, Jan. 16, to map a strategy for considering the appeal. Meanwhile, the owner of the land on which the project would be built filed a letter asking the board to dismiss the appeal filed by opponents of the project.

The owner of the land, C. Ronald Price of Knox, said the appeal was flawed for a number of reasons:

“¢ The appeal incorrectly cited “Roland C. Price” as an owner of the property.

“¢ The document allegedly did not include a site plan as required by town ordinances.

“¢ Abutters and other interested parties were added to the appeal Jan. 9, three days after the paperwork was filed by Bennett, his daughter Erin, and their spouses.

“Upon review of the Freedom Board of Appeals Ordinance and the Commercial Development Review Ordinance, I cannot find any provisions for amendments once an appeal is filed,” wrote Price in a Jan. 13 letter to Addison Chase, chairman of the appeals board.

Added Price: “I believe the facts I have outlined in this letter raise serious concerns about the legal status of the appeal before the Freedom Board of Appeals. The aggrieved parties had thirty days to file a legally correct appeal with the guidelines and procedures established [and failed to do so].”

The appeals board is treading lightly. Members voted Tuesday to ask the board of selectmen to let them hire an attorney. Selectpeople Lynn Hadyniak and Tim Biggs were supportive, but they are seeking advice on whether there is a potential conflict in hiring William Kelley, the Belfast lawyer who advised the Planning Board in its review of the project, to assist with the appeal.

The appeals board also drafted a timetable for its hearings on Beaver Ridge. Chase said the board would meet at 7 p.m. in the basement of the First Congregational Church on Pleasant Street on the following dates: Feb. 1, 2, 8, 15 and 22, and March 8. Meetings will end by 10:30 p.m., he said.

Chase said the board may not need to hold all of the scheduled meetings, but the strict notice requirements for the appeal and the possibility of inclement weather made it prudent to schedule them all now.

The wind power project has proven to be a divisive issue in Freedom. In voting on issues related to Beaver Ridge over the past year, a solid majority of town residents has indicated support for the project. But a number of abutters and others are staunchly opposed.

On Thursday, Bennett said the allegations in the Jan. 13 letter by Price were insufficient to prevent the appeal from being heard. The required site plan was stapled to the appeal letters that Bennett’s wife delivered Saturday, Jan. 6, to the town office and to Chase.

The appeal was hand-delivered after six copies of the appeal, mailed by Bennett’s attorney to the town office Jan. 4 and 5, failed to arrive. The letters were addressed to the town office at “P.O. Box 88, 71 Pleasant St.,” according to Bennett.

The town no longer has a post office box, according to Bennett, but the letters were not returned to Bearor’s office. They remain missing, he said.

“The postmistress told me those letters would have been delivered with that address,” said Bennett. “Even if they were not, they would have been sent back to the sender [Bearor].”

The date the appeal was submitted is important because town ordinances give abutters 30 days to contest a Planning Board decision. The project received approval in a voice vote Dec. 7, but the Planning Board did not sign a printed copy of the decision until Thursday, Jan. 4. William Pickford, vice chairman of the planning board, told VillageSoup in mid-December the window for appeal would open after members signed a written order.

Bennett said Pickford’s interpretation is correct. “It’s rather difficult to form an appeal when you don’t have the document on which to base the appeal,” he said.

The naming of other appellants in a separate letter sent Jan. 5, to the town office by Bearor did not change the grounds for the appeal, according to Bennett.

“We have a right to have our property rights protected “¦ and they [members of the planning board] didn’t do it,” he said.

Based in Belfast, Copy Editor Andy Kekacs can be reached at 207-338-0484 or by e-mail at andyk@villagesoup.com.


This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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