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Wind farm plan impacts zoning  

There are some significant changes proposed in the Roxbury and Byron zoning ordinances that, if approved by voters, would make it possible for Independence Wind, LLC developers to put up a series of wind towers that would generate electricity to be used throughout the Northeast. The Record Hill Wind Project is located on Record, Flathead and Partridge Mountains, and will consist of 25 to 29 turbines on the 5.5-mile section of ridge when complete. It is expected that the towers would generate between two and three megawatts of power each per year. “The current ordinance prohibits industrial activities anywhere in the town,” said Independence Wind founder Robert Gardiner, who along with former Maine governor Angus King created the company two years ago. Turning down the ordinance changes in Roxbury and Byron, he added, “would be pretty fatal to the project.” A public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 21 in Byron on the proposed changes to the town’s building ordinance. “What I’m hearing is, we’re going to look at them but people are going to look at it as the small town of Byron is doing its part to reduce fossil fuel consumption,” said planning board chairman Dave Duguay in a telephone interview on Feb. 7. A survey was sent out to 45 residents, and of the 23 returned surveys, 17 residents were in favor of the proposed wind project, five were opposed, and one was neutral. The new definitions, which have been developed by the planning board at a series of meetings, would allow wind turbines subject to 400-foot height limitations taking into account both the tower and rotary blades. “We think it’s a reasonable requirement,” said Duguay. Currently, the town’s building ordinance prohibits structures more than 30 feet tall. The height requirement was created in part, noted Duguay, to make it easier for the town’s fire department to fight fires. The wind towers are less likely to be impacted by fire than other structures. “If there’s a fire, it’s going to be self-contained,” said Duguay. The Byron building ordinance has a time requirement of two years for the extensive portion of any construction. An exception to this that will be discussed at the public hearing reads as follows: “A building permit for wind turbines or components or structures accessory thereto, including but not limited to any associated tower and rotary blades shall be good for four (4) years, after which time it expires. An extension may be applied for in the same manner as for an original permit. The exterior portion of any construction must be completed within two (2) years from the date construction begins.” After the public hearing on the 21st, the planning board will consider citizen feedback and any changes that should be made before the revised building ordinance goes before citizens as part of the March 10 Annual Town Meeting warrant. Roxbury’s planning board has made some changes to the town’s natural land use ordinance that will go before its town meeting voters on March 3. A Mountain District has been defined in the ordinance that includes “all areas of the mountain ridge comprised of the portions of Record Hill located within the Town of Roxbury, Flathead Mountain, Mine Notch Partridge Peak and North and South Twin Mountains that are located at or above an elevation of fifteen hundred feet (1500 feet) above sea level (excluding those areas between Partridge Peak and North Twin Mountain that are at an elevation below 1500 feet).” A wind energy facility has also been defined. In the ordinance, it is identified as “An electricity-generating facility consisting of more than one wind turbine under common ownership or operating control that includes substations, MET towers, cables/wires and other structures accessory to such facility, whose main purpose is to supply electricity to off-site customer(s). Wind Energy Facilities are not considered to be “Industrial Structures,” as that term is used in this Ordinance.” A detailed list of land uses is included for the Mountain District. Wind energy facilities would not be allowed in any other district, but would be in the Mountain District with a planning board permit. Private sewage disposal systems in that district would need an LPI permit, and gravel extraction would require a planning board permit. At the Roxbury selectmen’s meeting on Feb. 8, chairman Mark Touchette gave his perspective of the Roxbury reaction to the project. “Most residents I’ve talked to are favorable to it,” he said. “Everyone has their opinion.” Selectman Debbie DeRoche added that there had been some campowners around Roxbury and Garland ponds who had complained about the visual impact that the towers will have. Many residents have also wondered what the effect of the project will be on their taxes. “It would give the town some financial base,” said Touchette. “We’d be more industry-based, if you want to call wind towers industry. Most of our town is in tree growth, which the state never really fully funds.” “We’re on the same track to be ready to be able to submit permits to the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) in July,” said Gardiner. The project’s principals are looking to begin construction on the project sometime in 2009, pending approval of all state permits and “yes” votes by Roxbury and Byron on ordinance changes. “We feel it’s better to air out any issues people have in advance so people will have enough information for them to make a well-informed vote,” said Gardiner. “We’re hoping to get it right the first time.” At a public hearing in Roxbury on Feb. 5, Gardiner and King had the chance to listen to questions and concerns from Roxbury and Byron residents. “People had good questions, and the answers seemed to satisfy them for the most part,” Gardiner observed. Wind data is set to be collected until this spring. The company is still having discussions with Central Maine Power Company about how to connect to the transmission grid. Independence Wind will be sending out a mailing to residents regarding the project.

by Barry Matulaitis

Rumford Falls Times

13 February 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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