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2nd wind ordinance forum scheduled for Eastbrook

EASTBROOK, Maine – After a few dozen residents stated Monday night that they had not been given ample opportunity to review a proposed wind farm ordinance, town officials agreed to schedule another public information session on the proposal for next month.

The issue came up at a meeting Monday night on the proposed ordinance, which would set construction and operating standards for an 80-megawatt commercial wind farm First Wind hopes to construct, part of which would be in Eastbrook. Construction and operation of the other part of the facility, which would be in neighboring Township 16, would be regulated by the state Land Use Regulation Commission.

Monday’s meeting had been set up so residents could ask town officials questions about the proposed ordinance, but many at the meeting said they had yet to see the proposed ordinance. Many suggested the town should be doing more to make copies of the proposed ordinance for residents.

Chuck Yeo, chairman of the town’s planning board, asked at the meeting for a show of hands from people who had not yet reviewed the ordinance and wanted copies. Most people in the audience raised their hands.

“We will get a copy to anyone that wants a copy,” Yeo said.

The chairman said a copy of the proposed ordinance would remain at the town office for anyone to read during office hours. Copies of the proposed ordinance also can be found online on the Eastbrook page of the Hancock County Planning Commission website, www.hcpcme.org.

The next informational meeting on the proposed ordinance has been set for 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 13, at the town office on Route 200.

Several residents Monday also raised the issue of property values possibly being negatively affected if commercial wind farms locate nearby. They said the ordinance should include provisions that protect property owners in such cases. First Wind or any other developer should have to compensate property owners for the loss of land value caused by their developments, they suggested.

Sugar Hill Road resident Kate Donohoe said such a provision likely would not have much of an impact now, when land values are low. If property values decrease because of nearby wind farms, they probably wouldn’t decrease much, she said.

“My farm is all I have,” Donohoe said.

Officials said, however, that any such provision probably would be struck down if challenged in court. Daniel Pileggi of Ellsworth, the town’s attorney, said he was aware of two Maine municipalities that had such provisions in their land use ordinance. He said he would recommend against Eastbrook trying to do the same thing.

“I’m confident they’re going to be disallowed. They are going to be [found to be] unconstitutional,” Pileggi said of the other towns’ ordinances. “The intent of the [Eastbrook Comprehensive Plan] Committee was to protect everyone’s property as much as possible, using the criteria the supreme court says it’s OK to use.”

One resident who had a copy of the ordinance, Mary Ann John, asked how much money Eastbrook might get from First Wind because of the project.

Yeo told John that the proposed ordinance has nothing to do with any such financial arrangement. That issue, he said, would be addressed by written tax-increment financing and community benefit agreements that the town and First Wind would agree upon at a later date, he said.

“I’d like to see that [monetary estimate] before the [ordinance] vote,” John said.

First Wind officials have estimated that Eastbrook could receive millions of dollars over two or three decades as a result of financial agreements between the town and the company.

The town’s attorney said Monday that the town’s existing land use ordinance does not allow wind power facilities. If the proposed ordinance eventually is rejected by voters, Pileggi suggested, First Wind would not be allowed to erect turbines in Eastbrook.