Residents of Roxbury will get another opportunity to vote on changes to the town’s ordinance that were passed at the March 3 town meeting, giving the go-ahead to developers to put up a series of wind towers on a mountain ridge in the town.
The Concerned Citizens to Save Roxbury have since gathered 89 petition signatures for a moratorium on wind power development in town.
Many of the citizens opposed to the wind towers, according to Linda Kuras of the Concerned Citizens, felt they were not given an adequate opportunity to address the negative aspects of the wind towers at the town meeting.
“I felt stymied,” said Kuras after the March 27 selectmen’s meeting. “I told them (the selectmen) I wanted to bring someone from Mars Hill, and was told I couldn’t.”
The citizen’s group has sought legal counsel from attorney Frank M. Underkuffler.
In correspondence with selectmen, it was pointed out that certain required statutory procedures for the adoption of zoning ordinance amendments were not followed.
“Not only was there a lack of compliance with the public notice requirements in 30-A M.R.S.A. 4352, there was no public hearing conducted by the planning board meeting the requirements of the statue, and copies of the proposed ordinance amendments were not as freely available at the Town Meeting as were the wind power company’s fliers…,” according to the letter to selectmen.
“It kind of falls back on the planning board,” said selectman Tina Howard. “We don’t have that information as a board as to what the planning board did or didn’t do. In all probability, we will have to consult a lawyer.”
The town does not have an attorney, although it does receive legal advice from the Maine Municipal Association.
Howard noted that the statement in correspondence from Underkuffler regarding the availability of the ordinance amendments for public review was “erroneous.”
“Those ordinances were available for two, possibly three weeks before the town meeting.”
Kuras pointed out that at the town meeting, there were fliers from Independence Wind, LLC right next to the ordinance amendments on the front table at the town hall.
She stated that when she had asked the selectmen in advance of the meeting if she could bring someone familiar with the effects of the Mars Hill wind farm to speak, the selectmen refused on the basis that the person was a non-resident.
“Since then, I’ve been told it is the public who grants that permission.”
Howard noted that the selectmen had in fact made an error if they told Kuras that she couldn’t bring a non-resident to speak on the matter.
Citizens can allow non-residents to speak by a two-thirds majority vote.
Underkuffler noted several errors in the zoning ordinance amendment.
“It does not allow, it actually forces your planning board to abdicate its land planning responsibilities just when the largest, most controversial project comes to your town,” he wrote.
“Large projects requiring DEP review are exactly those projects local planning boards most want to review.”
It was also mentioned that the amendment would prohibit the planning board from reviewing the project.
“All the wind power company needs is a DEP permit… The moratorium is necessary to give the town the opportunity to reconsider its position and adopt a thoughtful wind power ordinance that allows the town to have a voice in its own development, rather than being silenced by outside interests.”
In the post meeting interview on March 27, Kuras explained that the road building associated with the construction of the wind towers would result in some runoff.
She noted that the runoff and blasting of ledge that would need to take place could have a particularly detrimental impact on underground water sources as well as surface water and could have a negative impact on water quality in Roxbury Pond.
The impacts on wildlife on the mountain ridge are also being questioned.
There are also those who are worried about a loss of snowmobile access.
“They’ve told us that snowmobile access will be denied because of safety issues,” said Kuras.
The correspondence from Underkuffler indicated that under Maine law, a zoning ordinance must be “pursuant to” and “consistent with” a town’s Comprehensive Plan.
If the zoning ordinance is not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, then its legality is in doubt.
Underkuffler suggested that “the Comprehensive Plan should have been amended before enacting any ordinance amendment that purports to allow their (the mountain ridges) transformation into industrial sites.”
In a letter from Mark P. Harris, a Bridgewater resident, to Kuras on March 26, the negative impacts on the Mars Hill wind farm on the quality of life was emphasized.
Harris had moved to Bridgewater four years ago, two years before the wind towers went up, with the intention of building a home on 80 acres on Mars Hill and retiring to the small northern Maine community.
However, both he and his wife are convinced based on their own observations that retiring in Mars Hill is not a good idea.
“In the last year, it has become increasingly clear that we will not be able to tolerate the intermittent and intense sounds coming from the turbines.
When the wind comes from the west or northwest, there is a rhythmic pounding that exceeds the permitted level of sound, namely in excess of fifty decibels.”
Harris mentioned that in putting on a chainsaw helmet with hearing protectors on, before running the saw he could actually hear the sound from the towers through the protectors.
“They block out the sounds of birds, wind, brook babble, but not the relentless pounding of the turbines.”
When asked if she felt the Concerned Citizens would be successful in getting the moratorium put in place, Kuras responded, “I really can’t say. We’d like to think we would be.”
By state law, a special town meeting needs to be held on a petition article within 60 days of the acceptance of that petition.
by Barry Matulaitis
2 April 2008
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