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Turbines are closer to permit

FREEDOM – The Portland company hoping to erect three electricity-generating wind turbines on Beaver Ridge has reapplied for a town permit.

This time, without a commercial development ordinance posing a stumbling block, the project appears on the fast-track to fruition.

“I never lost hope, I guess,” said Andy Price, project manager for Competitive Energy Services, which hopes to have the turbines in place as early as the fall of 2008. “The town has been very supportive. Eventually, if the town wants it, it will happen.”

The new application, the third submitted by Competitive Energy for the $10 million project, essentially turns back the clock more than a year to the company’s original application.

Competitive Energy agreed to retract its original application to give the town time to develop a commercial development review ordinance, which voters approved in August of last year.

The company resubmitted its application in September 2006 and in December the planning board agreed by a 5-1 vote that the project complied with the ordinance. But a group of abutters, led by Steve Bennett and family members, appealed that decision.

In March, the board of appeals determined the project did not meet the ordinance standards for noise and bonding and overturned the planning board’s decision.

But residents voted June 12 to repeal the commercial development ordinance, thus opening the door for Competitive Energy to reapply for a building permit.

Jay Guber, the town’s code enforcement officer, could not be reached for comment.

Following the June 12 vote, Nancy Bailey Farrar, chairwoman of the planning board, said the project will simply need to meet the standards of a simple building permit, and that Guber will visit the site where the approximately 400-foot turbines are planned and make a recommendation. The board almost always follows Guber’s lead, Farrar said.

The board is scheduled to take up the new application at its July 12 meeting.

“It’s a formality,” Farrar said. “We take a vote that everything is in line and he issues the building permit.”

Bennett has declined opportunities to comment on the town’s decision and Competitive Energy’s new application.

Competitive Energy has agreed to follow the same project parameters approved by the planning board.

The company included all of its studies and paperwork in its new application.

“Nothing has changed,” Price said.

“We’ve committed to build the same project and it’s the same project.”

Though there is no longer an ordinance to govern much of the project, the town will not be cut out of the process, he said.

“We expect to work with the code enforcement officer and other town officials throughout the process,” Price said. “Just because there are no ordinances doesn’t mean we’re changing anything.”

By Craig Crosby
Staff Writer

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel

29 June 2007