ROXBURY – Town meeting voters next month could decide if backers of a proposed wind tower project can proceed as planned.
That’s what selectmen’s Chairman Mark Touchette told about 20 people attending Tuesday night’s informational meeting on the proposed creation of a mountain district zone in the town’s natural land use ordinance.
“This is not a done deal,” Touchette said, responding to a question regarding proposed changes to the ordinance. “This might get voted down and that’s it.”
The changes are intended to clear up gray areas of the ordinance and prevent wind energy facilities from being labeled as industrial structures, which are prohibited by the existing ordinance.
The district would include all areas of the mountain ridge comprising portions of Record Hill within Roxbury, Flathead Mountain, Mine Notch, Partridge Peak, and North and South Twin mountains that are located at or above an elevation of 1,500 feet.
Excluded from the district would be areas between Partridge Peak and North Twin that are at an elevation below 1,500 feet.
Since 1976, when the ordinance was created, the area was zoned as general district, which allowed everything from non-intensive recreational uses to gravel extraction. Among the things it didn’t allow are wind-energy facilities.
Last summer, Brunswick-based Independence Wind LLC, a Maine company formed to create large-scale wind projects in Maine and elsewhere in New England, partnered with area landowner Bayroot LLC and its land manager, Wagner Forest Management of Lyme, N.H.
They formed a company called Record Hill Wind LLC, which wants to develop wind power on a portion of Bayroot’s lands in Byron and Roxbury.
Independence Wind is owned by former Gov. Angus King and Rob Gardiner, former president of Maine Public Broadcasting.
“If you didn’t have this changed, it would be a dead deal,” Gardiner said regarding the proposed ordinance changes and Record Hill wind power project. “Your current zoning prohibits this kind of activity in town.”
The ordinance changes also wouldn’t prevent residents from erecting their own electricity-generating windmills, projects which would have to be approved by Roxbury’s planning board.
“We’re not defining which companies; we’re defining an area. This opens the whole ridgeline. … It doesn’t stop at a certain spot,” Touchette said after some asked why wind-power development companies weren’t identified in the ordinance.
Aside from Record Hill Wind, UPC Wind, the nation’s leader in wind power production, is eyeing Roxbury’s North and South Twin mountains for a possible wind power facility.
Robert Patton, UPC’s Northeast development manager, attended Tuesday night’s meeting, along with King and Gardiner, to also dole out information.
Massachusetts-based UPC Wind has two large projects in Maine: Mars Hill Wind Farm at Mars Hill, and Stetson Wind, which is under development in Danforth.
Additionally, a subsidiary of UPC Wind is conducting wind studies atop a Rumford mountain.
By Terry Karkos
6 February 2008
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