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Freedom residents do not reinstate commercial ordinance

By a 47-vote margin, 117-164, residents voted not to reinstate Freedom’s Commercial Development Review Ordinance and make it retroactive to last June.

On June 12, 2007, voters pitched the town’s Commercial Development Review Ordinance. Resident Glen Bridges led the drive to repeal it after the Freedom Board of Appeals found the proposal by Competitive Energy Services to construct three wind turbines on Beaver Ridge did not comply with the ordinance’s requirements and thus rejected the developer’s application.

Now, Beaver Ridge Wind, an affiliate of Competitive Energy Services of Portland, holds a permit to construct three 400-foot-tall windmills on hilltop farm fields owned by Selectman Ron Price. Construction equipment was recently moved to the site.

The $12 million project continues to face staunch opposition from some of the people who live near the site.

Developer CES has publicly agreed to abide by all the requirements of the rescinded ordinance.

About 45 Freedom residents gathered Tuesday, May 27, 2008, at the Dirigo Grange Hall to discuss whether the town should reinstate the CDRO and make it retroactive to last June.

Led by Selectman Price and Bridges, supporters press that the turbines will provide an environmentally benign source of electricity and generate substantial tax revenue for the town.

Price previously said the ordinance, which would regulate everything from home-based businesses to water extraction, would discourage businesses from locating in town.

“Only people with huge pocketbooks would be able to afford commercial developments in town,” said Price, who estimated it would cost $20,000 to hire engineers, surveyors and lawyers to site a 24-hour truck repair facility in town. “… I don’t think this is a good ordinance for Freedom.”

Opponents organized by former Selectman Steve Bennett, who lives near the site, say the tax benefits are overstated, while the noise and safety problems posed by the development are substantial.

Diane Winn, who operates Avian Haven about a mile from the Beaver Ridge site, has said the bird rehabilitation facility would have to move if the ordinance is not reinstated and the project is built. Both the noise from the turbines and the threat that the spinning blades pose to birds would force Avian Haven out of Freedom, she said.

By Beth Staples
VillageSoup/Waldo County Citizen Editor


10 June 2008