FREEDOM – The town’s Board of Appeals has rejected the latest bid to halt construction of three electricity wind turbines on Beaver Ridge, though the ultimate decision on the project could be made by a Superior Court justice.
The board voted unanimously on Sept. 12 to deny an appeal lodged by Steve Bennett, Erin Bennett-Wade and Jeff Keating, all of whom own land adjacent to the proposed site of the $10 million project.
“We denied the appeal on all three counts,” said Addison Chase, chairman of the Board of Appeals.
The Bennetts and Keating argued over two days of hearings that the Planning Board erred in its July decision to issue a building permit to Portland-based Competitive Energy Service because the large pieces of the turbine can only be delivered to the Beaver Ridge site by trespassing onto neighboring property while turning from North Palermo Road onto Sibley Road.
There is nothing in the town’s building application, however, that talks about access, Chase said.
“The assumption is (the code enforcement officer) looked at the site, looked at the project, and said there is no apparent need for a permit,” Chase said. “There isn’t anything that automatically triggers a permit.”
The appellants also argued that the final 1,000 feet of Sibley Road has been abandoned by the town, which means that abutters own the property to the road’s center line, thus Competitive Energy lacks right, title and interest to make upgrades needed to deliver the turbine parts.
But the planning board was not required to look at whether or not the road will need to be upgraded. Decisions on who owns the road and how it how it can be used will likely be made by a Waldo County Superior Court judge. Steve Bennett appealed to the court earlier this year.
“In essence, permission to upgrade the road hasn’t been asked for and it hasn’t been granted,” Chase said. “I don’t know when that bridge will be crossed.”
The Bennetts and Keating also argued that the project will need approval from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection and that the town has historically required applicants to secure all state permits before granting a building permit.
While the enforcement officer does require a permit for projects in certain situations, applicants were not always required to secure state permits in advance of a permit from the town, Chase said.
“We basically said the CEO didn’t always, and in this case didn’t have to, bring in the state to get approval,” Chase said. “The state may have to get involved, but that’s not what our permitting process is about.”
Competitive Energy first applied to erect three 400-foot turbines more than a year ago, but the company retracted 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 a year ago, and in December the Planning Board agreed by a 5-1 vote that the project complied with the ordinance.
A group of neighbors to the proposed project, led by the Bennetts, 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.
In June, however, residents voted to repeal the commercial development ordinance, thus opening the door for Competitive Energy to reapply for a permit. The Planning Board granted a building permit on July 12.
By Craig Crosby
19 September 2007
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