RUMFORD – Selectmen voted 4-1 Thursday night to extend the moratorium on wind development another six months.
Selectman Mark Belanger was the dissenter.
The decision came despite pleas from a few people, both during the 40-minute hearing that preceded the board’s regular meeting and the meeting itself.
The current six-month moratorium ends Nov. 27. It was enacted to give town officials time to study wind farm issues and to draft an ordinance to regulate such development.
That ordinance, which was widely believed to ban wind farm projects, was defeated on Nov. 2 by a vote of 1,339 to 1,048.
Prior to the hearing and the meeting, Town Manager Carlo Puiia told the crowd of about 50 people that a special town meeting wasn’t needed to vote to extend the moratorium, because selectmen have the authority.
The board then shared their opinions before seeking public response.
Selectmen Jeff Sterling, Jeremy Volkernick, Greg Buccina and Chairman Brad Adley all supported extending the development ban.
Sterling and Volkernick want selectmen to then develop an ordinance to regulate wind power. Buccina said he believes the defeated ordinance has a lot of merit. Adley said he wants an ordinance, albeit one that’s designed from the Maine State Planning Office wind development ordinance template.
Belanger said the board should follow the will of the majority of voters who defeated the proposed ordinance, conduct workshops with experts on wind power issues, and work with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to draft an ordinance.
Sterling said he believes people who voted against the proposed ordinance desire regulation, but want it to govern wind development and not restrict it.
Buccina told Adley he would not support an ordinance based on the state’s template, because he doesn’t believe it is protective enough.
From the public, an extension was sought by Monique Aniel, Ed Shurtleff, Len Greaney, Jo Elliot and Carolyn Bennett.
Aniel said there are possible health-related changes coming to sound regulations. Shurtleff said banks won’t lend money to wind power companies “because they aren’t viable.”
Greaney said more work was needed to define tax breaks and financing. Elliott said an extension would provide more time to study the issue, and Bennett wanted work on an ordinance done at a more understandable level.
Resident Candice Casey sided with Belanger, saying she believed the extension goes against wishes of the voting majority. She also believes any ordinance should regulate all development and not just wind power.
When selectmen next broached the topic during their regular meeting, Volkernick motioned to extend the moratorium by 180 days. It was seconded and then former selectman J. Arthur Boivin urged them to reconsider.
“The way I look at it, on Nov. 2 the voters gave you guys a job and I think they are expecting you guys to do it, and that is not necessarily to extend the moratorium or to come up with a new ordinance,” he said.
“Because the people that I have been talking to, they want some type of development that will create jobs. You are looking at over 1,300 people who said no, because they said, ‘We want wind development.’”
“That is 1,300 people as opposed to listening to about 50 of them that are sitting here,” he said.
Boivin said selectmen should draft an ordinance to regulate wind power and work with a wind developer and state officials.
Buccina said he believed that the voting majority defeated the proposed ordinance, but didn’t say the town shouldn’t have one.
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