Putting aside the merits and flaws of a proposal to build three, 400-foot-tall wind turbines on Beaver Ridge in Freedom, we have to ask: What the heck are local officials thinking?
On May 1, the town’s Board of Appeals heard a request by opponents of the project to revoke a building permit issued to the developers in July 2007. The opponents said work had not “substantially commenced” within the six-month period required by local ordinance.
The appeals board ultimately rejected that argument, deciding that the purchase of wind turbines by the developer was sufficient to meet the ordinance requirements. But it did so with Dave Bridges, a vocal supporter of wind power, as acting chairman of the board.
Just one year ago, Bridges rose to speak in favor of wind at a public hearing in Freedom. At the time, his wife was leading a campaign to overturn the town’s Commercial Development Review Ordinance.
The Bridges family was successful, paving the way for issuance of the permit that was at the heart of the recent appeals board hearing.
Apparently, it was legally permissible for Dave Bridges to preside over the debate last week. The appeals board ordinance does not require a member to recuse himself because of past statements about a pending issue.
But, c’mon, don’t we have higher expectations for government? Why would a local official put himself in such an ethically challenged position?
Appeals board deliberations are the first step in a judicial process that can continue all the way to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. We surely would not allow a judge to hear a case in which his ability to be impartial was in doubt.
The very first step for ending the damaging debate over wind power in Freedom is to remove every hint of unfairness from the process. That didn’t happen May 1.
By Citizen Editorial Board
Waldo County Citizen
9 May 2008
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