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Thorndike OKs strict wind ordinance

THORNDIKE, Maine – With no discussion and little fanfare, Thorndike residents voted at Saturday morning’s annual town meeting to adopt a comprehensive, strict wind energy ordinance that would require mile-long setbacks between wind turbine towers and homes.

Although some of the estimated 100 people present said they were surprised there were no comments on the matter, others said the controversies – and conversations – sparked by wind development in other communities already have answered their questions.

“I figured it’s been hashed around enough over the last year,” said Donna Higgins of Thorndike. “What else is there to say? Not much.”

With the vote, Thorndike joins nearby Dixmont and Jackson in adopting ordinances that give towns high levels of local control. Montville, a neighboring community, will vote on a similar ordinance next Saturday at its annual town meeting.

Residents of these towns have cited concerns about three wind turbines in Freedom, which neighbors say have caused them severe hardship because of noise and light-flicker.

John O’Donovan said that because he and his family live close to a ridge on East Thorndike Road, he felt worried about possible turbine construction.

“It’s a very quiet area,” he said. “To imagine constant noise was quite a concern for me.”

Selectman Gerald Berry said that he had anticipated that residents would have more questions about the ordinance. Wind power developers have said that the mile-long setbacks make it prohibitive to build wind turbines in the communities that have adopted them.

“I think [wind development] is great, if it’s in the right place,” Berry said.

Mount Harris Wind built the three-turbine project on Beaver Ridge in Freedom in 2008, but will not follow through with plans to build more towers in Dixmont, Jackson and Thorndike, company official Andrew Price said last week.

Higgins said she rode close to the turbines on horseback to see – and hear – their effects for herself.

“I personally think for tax dollars, they ought to think about it,” she said after the vote.

Some nonresidents sat through three dozen articles on the town meeting warrant in order to find out what happened with the wind ordinance.

Mark Dittrick is the conservation chairman for the Atlantic Canada chapter of the Sierra Club and has been in Maine because of offshore wind legislation. He said that he came to Thorndike because he has been paying attention to Maine wind ordinances.

Canadian communities also are paying attention to setbacks for wind turbines.

“There’s a lot of stuff happening with Atlantic Canada with wind,” Dittrick said.

In other business, First Selectman Jim Bennett said the annual town meeting went smoothly.

“No fights,” he said afterward.

Residents voted to spend a total of $13,790 on the Thorndike Fire Department, although a motion was made to add $2,000 more to the budget.

Fire Chief Peter Quimby said during discussion that he was not in favor of the increase.

“It’s a tough economy we’re in,” he said. “We can make do with what we’ve got.”