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Towns consider holds on wind, cell towers

BROOKSVILLE, Maine – Two more towns in the Blue Hill Peninsula area are considering moratoriums on the construction of communication or wind towers.

Earlier this year, a number of towns enacted moratoriums on either cell phone towers or wind turbines; some targeted both. Now, voters in the neighboring towns of Brooksville and Sedgwick will weigh in on the matter.

Brooksville selectmen have scheduled a special town meeting to vote on the issue for 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 4, at the Community Building. Sedgwick selectmen have placed a town vote on a moratorium ordinance on the ballot for the November election. They will hold a public hearing on the question at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7 at the town house.

The focus of the two towns is different. Brooksville’s moratorium will target communication towers. In Sedgwick, the ordinance is aimed at wind power development.

According to Sedgwick Selectman Nelson Grindal, the call for a moratorium on wind power development came through a petition from residents.

Although there are no pending proposals for wind power development in town, Grindal noted that a local group has been researching the potential for local wind power and has installed an anemometer to track wind speeds in an area off the Old County Road. The petition cites the sudden “threat of increased development pressure from wind power developments” and notes the lack of town ordinances to adequately assess issues of safety, land-use compatibility and “visual access to view corridors.”

The moratorium would put a six-month hold on any construction or review of wind power development proposals to allow time for the town to develop and adopt a wind turbine ordinance. If voters approve it, the moratorium would become effective immediately upon its adoption.

In Brooksville, the situation is a little more complicated. Voters will act on two moratorium proposals, both of which target communication towers. One proposal was developed by the selectmen based on an informal petition from residents. The second proposed moratorium came from petitioners who, according to Selectman John Gray, wanted something “with more teeth in it.”

The key difference in the two proposals is the retroactive date they would become effective. According to Gray, under the selectmen’s proposal, the moratorium would become effective Aug. 4. The competing measure would apply to communications towers that were not completed and operating as of July 1.

“We didn’t have any cell phone towers up and running at that time,” Gray said, referring to the July 1 date.

However, two companies have since been working on projects at separate sites in town, one on Town House Road, the other on Ferry Road. Neither required town permits for construction of the towers, because the town has no ordinance to govern development outside of the shoreland zone. The Town House Road project did require a permit for a road entrance, which is what brought it to the attention of residents, according to Gray.

It is unclear at this point whether the town has the authority to impose a moratorium retroactively.

Selectmen initially had proposed placing the question on the November ballot, but the second petition specifically called for a special town meeting.

Voters will vote on both proposals on Monday.

“There will be a yes-or-no vote,” Gray said. “They’ll vote on both moratorium proposals. The one with the most yes votes will be enacted.”

Both moratorium questions require the town to develop a communication tower ordinance that would regulate the siting and construction of those towers in town. In the event both moratorium questions are rejected by voters, the selectmen have included a separate warrant article asking voters if they want the town to develop an ordinance on commercial communication towers.

Although the moratorium questions deal only with communication towers, a final article on the warrant asks voters if they want the town to develop a separate ordinance to regulate wind turbines.