RUMFORD – Selectmen will start work on a new ordinance to regulate wind development projects at a workshop at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9, in the Municipal Building Conference Room.
Should the meeting attract a large crowd, it will be held upstairs in Rumford Falls Auditorium.
Selectmen on Thursday night opted to use a previous process of convening workshops with public input at the beginning and end of the board’s work.
A previous ordinance widely regarded as anti-wind power, which was drafted by the board’s Wind Power Advisory Committee, was defeated at the Nov. 2 polls by a tally of 1,048 yes to 1,339 no.
Rather than tweak that document, selectmen voted 4-0 to start over by customizing a wind power ordinance template created by the Office of Maine State Planning. Selectman Jeremy Volkernick was absent.
Plenty of discussion ensued, however, before they reached that vote.
When Selectman Mark Belanger said he wanted the board to use the state template and not the defeated proposed ordinance, Selectman Greg Buccina objected.
“There’s nothing that protects our citizens in that Maine State Planning Office ordinance,” he said.
Buccina said officials who created the template devised it to create economic development and weren’t looking out for towns.
“I don’t think they really considered the effects on any community,” he said. “If you want to use it as a template, it’s just not all inclusive of what I think we need to do as responsible selectmen to do what’s best for members of our community.”
“If you want to just write something up so that anybody can come in here and put up a windmill, that’s what you’ve got with that template,” Buccina said. “I think we need to draft something that’s going to protect our citizens.”
He suggested changing portions of the defeated ordinance deigned overly restrictive.
“It’s not a bad ordinance,” he said. “I think it was labeled as restrictive, and maybe so. Let’s look at it and maybe ease those restrictive things a bit, but there’s a lot of things in there that I’m not going to bend on.”
Selectman Jeff Sterling recommended taking information from sections of the defeated ordinance and the template to make a new one.
Resident Candace Casey reiterated a previous town vote of 751-364 in favor of wind power, and then labeled the defeated ordinance as a “permanent moratorium” on wind projects.
She urged selectmen to customize the state template to fit Rumford.
When Buccina again objected to using the template, Belanger said a petition is circulating through town to have selectmen use the state template.
“We should do what the voters have asked us to do,” Belanger said.
He then motioned to use the template. It was seconded and more discussion ensued.
Mexico resident Dr. Albert Aniel said that as a physician, he believes the main issue is wind turbine noise.
He then said there is an effort under way in the Legislature to amend the state’s noise regulations, which don’t pertain to wind turbines.
Aniel urged the board to work from the defeated ordinance and wait for the state to develop new noise regulations.
Sterling said noise limits in the defeated ordinance didn’t pass.
Resident Jim Thibodeau sided with Buccina.
“First, I recommend you just take the state model and dump it in the trash,” Thibodeau said. “There’s no protection for our citizens in there. Secondly, don’t be misguided by the word ‘restrictive’ versus ‘protective.’”
He said he doesn’t care if anything in the ordinance affects a developer.
“If we’re being protective of our citizens and someone else deems it too restrictive, that’s their problem,” he said.
Resident Roger Arsenault asked selectmen to refrain from having any discussions with wind developers, whether as a board or on their own.
A Mountain Valley High School student urged selectmen to be mindful of future benefits to townspeople when drafting a new ordinance.
The board then voted unanimously to start from the state template.