Monday’s town meeting was noteworthy not only for its length – more than four hours – but also for how decisive voters were regarding wind turbines.
Not only did 74 voters in the town of 121 – and many more nonresidents – turn out in overwhelming numbers, but unlike neighboring Roxbury, a majority rejected a bid to allow wind-power facilities in town.
“I guess we’re not going to have windmills in Byron for a while,” Selectman Bruce Simmons said Tuesday evening. “It was so obvious. It would have been like 10 for and 70 against.”
At Roxbury’s town meeting on March 3, a majority OK’d creation of a new mountain district zone that would allow wind power development at or above an elevation of 1,500 feet.
Byron voters were asked if they wanted to amend their building ordinance to allow up to 450-foot-tall wind towers and turbines to be placed along a ridge between Old Turk Mountain and Record Hill.
Simmons said that most of the three hours of discussion on the article centered on noise generated by wind turbines.
“People were afraid of the noise that they’ve experienced at Mars Hill. A woman from there (Wendy Todd) came here and pleaded a pretty good case. I’ve stood near turbines and not heard a sound, but she said that if the conditions are right, you can get noise from them, and it’s extremely aggravating,” he said.
Additionally, people worried that having giant wind towers atop the ridges would forever mar the beauty of the land and ruin Route 17’s scenic highway designation.
“Everyone’s for ‘green power’ as long as it’s not in their back yard,” Simmons said.
After discussion lasted for about three hours – mostly against wind towers – voters finally allowed former Maine Gov. Angus King to speak.
King and Rob Gardiner, a former director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine who once headed Maine Public Broadcasting Corp., are principals of Brunswick-based Independence Wind LLC.
They formed the company to create large-scale wind projects in Maine and elsewhere in New England. Last summer, they partnered with area landowner Bayroot LLC and its land manager, Wagner Forest Management of Lyme, N.H. That new company is called Record Hill Wind LLC, and wants to develop wind power on a portion of Bayroot’s lands in Byron and Roxbury.
“Angus spoke for about four minutes. Unfortunately, discussion against (the article) went on … for about three hours and by the time they let Angus speak, everyone was tired of sitting there and had already made up their minds. They only let him speak for four minutes and Rob wasn’t given a chance at all,” Simmons said.
King and Gardiner have held several public meetings in Byron and Roxbury to resolve concerns, but were taken by surprise by Byron’s vote.
“The difference between the two town meetings was that at the Roxbury meeting, they were talking about the big picture of energy, but in Byron, they weren’t interested in the big picture, just what would happen locally,” Gardiner said Tuesday afternoon.
Earlier in the year, Byron selectmen surveyed residents to gauge interest in wind towers. Of the forms that were returned, 80 percent supported the project. That’s why, Gardiner said, they were so surprised by the flip-flop. He also said some of the information disseminated about their project wasn’t correct. But they weren’t allowed to correct it.
“What we saw didn’t fit with the facts as we know them, and as what we have tried to present,” Gardiner said.
He and King will decide whether to go ahead with it or not. They were only going to place eight towers in Byron after having agreed to remove four proposed for Old Turk Mountain.
“We have to look more closely at our options before we make any decisions. We’d been counting on getting that northern stretch,” Gardiner said.
By Terry Karkos
12 March 2008
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding