RUMFORD – Issues regarding the numbers to plug into the State Planning Office wind ordinance template from which selectmen are working was debated during a workshop Thursday.
No votes were taken as the board wanted this to be a workshop, but there was plenty of debate during the 150-minute session in the Rumford Falls Auditorium.
Selectman Jeff Sterling opened the workshop by noting that he felt last month’s workshop with Andrew Fisk of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection went “horribly. The DEP guy present was ambushed with questions he couldn’t possibly answer.”
“We’re treating this so differently than anything that could come here. The consistency of thought is not there,” he said, adding that visual impact to some is so hideous that “there is nothing that can be said to change their minds.”
Regarding the prior proposed Rumford ordinance, Sterling said it makes no sense “to pull out parts of an ordinance that had been defeated already. It makes no sense to do that. Put it to bed, for now.”
He said that the next meeting, he would propose that the board accept the State Planning Office model as a draft. “It would give them three months to dissect it, ask questions and go from there. I don’t see how, at this point, we can do otherwise.”
Selectman Mark Belanger agreed with Board Chairman Brad Adley after he said, “I agree with Jeff. Let’s button it up. Let the process begin. I think that’s the most productive way.”
But Selectman Greg Buccina strongly disagreed. “I think it’s a cop-out. This (the state model) was written in a pro-wind environment. There are hundreds of turbines out there sitting and rusting…You’re letting down the citizens, taking the easy way out.”
He said this is why towns are developing their own ordinances. “These companies do not come with impeccable reputations.”
Buccina said with wind power development, there’s no guarantee that Rumford’s power cost would decrease, that any jobs would be created. Further, he said jobs would be impacted at Brookfield Power or at the power station, which potentially could close as a result of wind power here.
Buccina also recommended a 2,000-foot sound, safety and shadow flicker setback from a turbine to an occupied dwelling, which “would save a lot of litigation.”
Other selectmen favored the safety setback at 150 percent of the size of the turbine blade at maximum height above a turbine. The board agreed to investigate the 2,000 feet for sound setbacks.
Sterling reiterated, “I was making a suggestion, not to go back to an ordinance that had been defeated…Something about this industry is detestible to people. I understand it; don’t necessarily share it.”
Belanger said, “People voted down something they believed was unreasonable. We owe it to them to vote on something reasonable. I think the DEP model is reasonable.”
Town Manager Carlo Puiia said this is an issue that is divided with no common ground. “There’s no way to make any one group completely happy.”
He noted that accepted the SPO model or pieces into a proposal ordinance is “not a snap of the fingers and here we go. There’s parts we need to add.”
Those include the fee structure, operator’s license – things to protect the town financially.
Also debated was when a developer should fully fund decommissioning its wind farm. Buccina wanted it on day one of construction or within three to four years. The others wanted 15 years, although Sterling later proposed 10 years.
Resident Candace Casey asked selectmen to consider asking people to vote on the ordinance by sections, therefore not being in the position of going back to doing the whole ordinance again.
The response was that this process would take too much time.
Resident Rita Aromaa asked that the proposed ordinance address property values to protect people if property values go down and are unsellable if close to wind turbines.
Another resident recommended bringing in a certified accoustical engineer to provide selectmen with information regarding sound issues.
While Sterling could see the potential value of the information, there wouldn’t be a way to know if the information was biased or not.
At the conclusion of the session, Sterling noted, “Good or bad, the cards are on the table. This discussion has been quite productive.”
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