FREEDOM – A permit giving a Portland-based company permission to build three wind turbines on Beaver Ridge may be headed for another appeal.
Neighbors of the proposed project believe the building permit should be revoked because construction has failed to meet the timeline spelled out in the town’s building ordinance.
But Code Enforcement Officer Jay Guber argued during Thursday’s Planning Board meeting that the millions of dollars Competitive Energy Services has spent on turbines and other services thus far makes those neighbors’ arguments moot.
“I haven’t seen any problems,” he said. “My decision is they’ve done enough work.”
Beaver Ridge Wind, a subsidiary of Competitive Energy, was issued a building permit to construct three, 400-foot, electricity-generating turbines in July.
To date, the only work that has occurred on site is the drilling of bore holes to test the soil and bedrock in advance of installing the turbine foundations.
The ordinance requires all approved projects to be “substantially commenced” within six months of when the permit is granted, a standard that is not met by merely drilling test holes, Bearor said.
“The only work that has been done on this site is…test borings,” he said. “This is not work and it is not substantial work that is commenced in less than six months.”
Andrew Price, project manager for Beaver Ridge Wind, said in a letter to the planning board that the company had spent more than $6 million to order the turbines and other equipment and conduct studies and has hired a general contractor and designers.
“We are pleased to report that we are on schedule to complete the project during 2008,” Price wrote. “We have made tremendous progress and are excited to be able to report that we are well on our way to completing this project in 2008 as anticipated by our June 22, 2007 application.”
Guber, who has final authority to approve building permits and enforce the ordinance during construction, argued Beaver Ridge Wind would not have ordered equipment and services without first securing a permit, which means all the work done since the permit was issued represents substantially-commenced construction.
“To me, if someone engineers something, they’ve done work,” he said. “If they have a plan, they’ve done work.”
When pressed by Bearor, however, Guber acknowledged that all the work Beaver Ridge Wind has completed to date could have been done, legally, without a permit.
“That (Price) letter is nice and Mr. Guber’s opinion is relevant, but it’s the ordinance that controls,” Bearor said. “This CES letter isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. It’s up to Mr. Guber.”
The Code enforcement officer stuck by his opinion.
“If you want to subpoena me, go ahead and do it, Mr. Bearor,” Guber said. “You have my answer.”
Thursday’s meeting was the latest turn in a process nearly two years in the making.
Competitive Energy submitted its original permit application for the $12 million project in March of 2006, but agreed to rescind the paperwork to give the town time to develop and adopt a commercial development review ordinance.
Since then, the project has been approved by the planning board and then rejected by the board of appeals before voters decided at a special town meeting in June to repeal the commercial development review ordinance, thereby opening the door for Competitive Energy to get a permit under the much-less-restrictive building ordinance.
By Craig Crosby
9 February 2008
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