FREEDOM – The company that hopes to put three electricity-generating wind turbines on Beaver Ridge is going to argue its case in court.
Portland-based Competitive Energy Services has filed papers in Waldo County Superior Court in an effort to overturn last month’s board of appeals decision to reject the wind turbine project.
The board’s decision tossed out the planning board’s approval of the project in December.
Andrew Price, project manager for Competitive Energy, said his company will argue that the appeals board erred in two areas, beginning with the board’s decision to hear the appeal in the first place.
The town’s ordinance gives abutters 30 days from the time the planning board renders its decision to file an appeal. A complete appeal, including a site plan, was not delivered to the town office until three days after the deadline.
Steve Bennett, one of several property owners opposed to the project, told the appeals board during hearings in February that his attorney, Edmond Bearor of Bangor, had mailed five completed notices of appeal on the same day, three of which were addressed to the town office. While Bennett and his daughter, Erin Bennett-Wade, received their copies a day before the deadline, the three copies sent to the town office never showed up. Those copies have never been found, Bennett said.
But because Addison Chase, chairman of the appeals board, had received a completed application in time, the board decided to go through with the hearing. Town attorney Al Stevens argued that the ordinance is unclear on the deadline to file an appeal and that the documents were likely filed in time regardless of the delay.
“We didn’t feel they had met that (time) requirement,” Price said during a telephone interview Thursday.
The appeals board also determined that the project would not meet the town’s noise standard, a finding that Price believes is not supported by the facts.
The planning board agreed with scientist Anthony Rogers’ study that determined the turbines would not exceed the decibel limit set in the ordinance.
But Rogers, who never visited the Beaver Ridge site, based his findings on an ambient, or background, noise levels of 31 and 35 decibels. Bennett’s appeal included 10 studies conducted in other rural parts of the country that determined the average ambient level is actually between 40 and 50 decibels.
“By using a more reasonable ambient sound level, the projected sound level would not meet the required ordinance,” Chase said after the appeals board rendered its decision last month.
The evidence presented during the appeals process did not offer enough proof to overturn the planning board’s decision, Price said.
“We had presented a study demonstrating the decibel levels could be met,” Price said. “The ordinance required the appeals board to grant our permit unless the burden of proof was met that we couldn’t meet those levels. We don’t feel like that burden of proof was met.”
Competitive Energy, which did not have a lawyer at any of the planning or appeals board hearings, will be represented by the law office of Preti Flaherty, which has offices in Augusta and Portland.
“We’d prefer not to be litigious and use lawyers to further this process,” Price said. “But we don’t feel the will of the town was represented.”
Price referred to a petition signed by more than 200 residents last spring supporting the project, but Bennett believes that is misleading.
The petition, Bennett said, asked residents whether they approved of the turbines if they complied with the town’s ordinance.
“The appeals board found that the project did not comply with the town’s ordinance,” Bennett said.
Competitive Energy believes the $10 million project will work in Freedom and is committed to seeing it through.
“We’re very excited about this project and we’re certainly not ready to give up,” Price said. “We think as long as there’s a majority of support in town there’s a chance this project will go forward.”
Bennett, however, believes those who support the project now would not be so anxious to see it completed if the turbines were going in their neighborhood.
“The people that live up here, we just feel we have a right to live peaceably, in peace and quiet, to not have to put up with the noise and all the turmoil and all the loss of property value that this is going to bring,” Bennett said.
“I think if they were honest about it, a lot of the people who signed the petitions last year wouldn’t want it in their back yard either and if it were they’d be just as upset as I am.”
By Craig Crosby
Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel
20 April 2007
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