PLEASANT RIDGE PLANTATION – Town offficials here slowed the permitting process for a commercial wind project developer Thursday night, to the surprise and approval of some residents.
The town’s three assessors voted unanimously to deny a permit to Highland Wind LLC, which wanted to string transmission wires over the southern portion of Rowe Pond Road.
The wires are an essential component of the 39-turbine project in neighboring Highland Plantation and would have crossed near four houses and a small park in Pleasant Ridge Plantation.
If the developer wishes to appeal the assessors’ decision, it may do so with the Somerset County commissioners. The permit is needed for state approval of the wind farm.
The elected assessors – echoing the sentiments of the town’s selectmen – denied the developer’s permit application to the town on the basis that it was inconsistent with a similar application filed with the state. The discrepancy in wire locations was discovered by resident Retta Giguere, who raised the issue at a public hearing Feb. 10.
The assessors also stated the lines would be unsightly and would cross too close to homes.
Though no turbines are planned for Pleasant Ridge, some residents would be able to see the turbines across town boundaries and have opposed the project.
About 15 people attended the hour-and-a-half meeting Thursday night in the community of about 80 residents. Pleasant Ridge is about 30 miles north of Skowhegan.
Highland Wind LLC is operated by Brunswick-based Independence Wind, which is led by former Gov. Angus King and former Maine Public Broadcasting Corp. president Rob Gardiner.
Erik Stumpfel, an attorney for Highland Wind from the firm Eaton Peabody, admitted the permit application filed with Pleasant Ridge deviates from the information filed with the Land Use Regulation Commission.
The town application states the transmission lines would pass alongside the existing Central Maine Power Company utility wires, but the state application shows the wires deviating from the existing CMP lines and traveling closer to people’s homes.
The difference in wire locations between the two applications is 577 feet.
“It is not and has never been adjacent to the CMP transmission corridor,” Stumpfel said.
However, the town application was “sufficient to let the public know approximately where this crossing would be,” he said. “We would suggest this is not misleading.”
Giguere disagreed, saying, “577 feet is quite a difference in my mind.” She told First Assessor Robert Bowden his duty was to the people of Pleasant Ridge, not the developer.
Bowden replied, “It still comes down in the end … to ‘does the application meet the requirements of the law?’”
Before the assessors closed the public hearing portion of the meeting, Giguere said, “You do realize this is going to ruin our beautiful little corner down there?”
The assessors ultimately agreed with her. “Over a tenth of a mile is quite a jump out of the way,” Charlie Rollins, third assessor, said during the board’s deliberations.
Bowden said there was a “radical” difference between the developer’s applications.
“(The area is) never going to look the same again,” said Marlene Merrill, second assessor.
The assessors did, however, approve permits for the remaining three high-wire road crossings – over Cross Road, Pleasant Ridge Road and the northern section of Rowe Pond Road – saying those applications met all legal requirements.
Norman St. Hilaire, an engineer from RLC Engineering who helped design the transmission lines, said he supported the board’s decision: “I think they tried to do the best job they can as a board, and I respect that.”
Giguere said she didn’t know what to expect from the assesors, but, “I’m pleased with it. I’m satisfied.”
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