FREEDOM – A wind turbine project that failed to meet the town’s standards will move ahead if residents vote to remove those standards next month.
That was the message those in favor of the project delivered to approximately 100 people who attended Tuesday’s hearing on repealing the town’s Commercial Development Review Ordinance.
“The town passed this ordinance because they thought it would allow the wind mill project,” said Glen Bridges, who organized the petition drive to force the June 12 vote on repealing the ordinance. “Freedom wanted wind power a year ago and Freedom wants wind power now.”
The ordinance was developed and approved last year in response to Portland-based Competitive Energy Services’ plans to install three, 400-foot-tall, electricity-generating wind turbines on Beaver Ridge.
While the planning board approved the turbines, the board of appeals rejected the project in March after finding it failed to meet the noise levels and bonding requirements spelled out in the commercial development ordinance.
Competitive Energy has since filed an appeal in Waldo County Superior Court.
But if the commercial development ordinance is repealed, Competitive Energy could simply reapply for a permit and would only need a building permit signed by code enforcement officer Jay Guber.
While Tuesday’s hearing was ostensibly held to discuss repealing the ordinance, the wind turbine project took center stage for those who want to see the ordinance scrapped. The arguments in favor or repealing the ordinance and allowing the turbines ranged from lowering property taxes, to saving the world from global warming.
“The windmills would be good for the town, the county, the state, the country, the world,” said Freedom resident Scott Holmes.
The section on wind turbines is a small portion of a comprehensive ordinance that protects the town, argued Steve Bennett, one of 28 landowners who won before the appeals board. Bennett rejected complaints that the ordinance was too restrictive and would drastically limit the number of businesses that could move to town.
“If you want leave the town unprotected from whatever might come in I think you’re playing a dangerous game,” Bennett said.
In a letter on Competitive Energy letterhead passed out at Tuesday meeting – competitive energy officials did not return a phone call seeking comment on the letter – the company promises to move forward with the project if the ordinance is repealed.
“CES has committed to building the very same project that was proposed, extensively reviewed, and ultimately approved by the town planning board if the ordinance is repealed,” the letter reads. “CES is committed to making the Beaver Ridge project work in Freedom.”
But for those want to keep the ordinance in place, Competitive Energy’s promises are meaningless without an ordinance to make sure they are carried out.
“I cannot support leaving my family with no protection but the good will of CES,” said Phil Bloomstein, whose home is located 1,000 feet from the project site. “I’m asking you to protect me and my neighbors.”
The 28 landowners who won before the board of appeals received subpoenas this week notifying them of Competitive Energy’s plans to sue them along with the town to have the board of appeals’ decision overturned. The subpoenas are standard procedure when a case is appealed to superior court, according to Edmond Bearor, who represents Bennett and others opposed to the project, but the notices were still unnerving, said Mary Ann Bennett, one of the 28 people named in Competitive Energy’s suit.
“It feels like we’re being manipulated by the company,” she said.
In the letter handed out at Tuesday’s hearing, Competitive Energy promised to install equipment that would slow the turbine blades, “and thereby reduce sound output if turbine sound emissions exceed their rated (decibel levels).”
In light of the offer to install the equipment, which Competitive Energy never mentioned during hearings before the planning or appeals boards, the company could reapply and try to meet the standards in the ordinance, Steve Bennett said.
“I think that would be a better thing to do than suing 28 people who exercised their constitutional right to appeal a decision of the planning board and a better thing to do than suing the town,” he said.
By Craig Crosby
Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel
17 May 2007
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