March 9, 2011

Temple voters to decide on wind-power moratorium

By Betty Jespersen, Special to the Sun Journal, 9 March 2011

TEMPLE – Voters at Monday’s annual town meeting will consider a request to place a six-month moratorium on any wind-power project in Temple to give the community time to draft an ordinance regulating such facilities.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, March 14, at the Temple Town Hall.

Residents will also vote on a proposed $320,072 municipal operating budget that is $18,200, or 6 percent, over what was raised at the 2010 town meeting, Marie Andrews, town treasurer/tax collector, said.

In voting for municipal positions from the floor, Board of Selectman member Kathy Lynch is expected to run for re-election. Also, Deputy Tax Collector Sue Cantrell is seeking to fill Andrews’ position because Andrews is retiring. In her 20 years of serving the town, she has also been town clerk and excise tax collector.

Two increases in the proposed budget are $5,000 in the snow removal contract, bringing the line item to nearly $117,000, and $5,000 in the town charges account, bringing the line up to $50,000, to cover the costs for a computer system for the assessor, according to Budget Committee member Jo Josephson.

The moratorium proposal was initiated by a group of concerned citizens. A committee of residents and town officials have drafted an ordinance that would give Temple time to create a set of regulations and a permitting process for any wind-power project.

According to an information sheet distributed to every household in town through the quarterly “Temple Times” newsletter, the moratorium, if passed Monday, is a legal, temporary procedure. Many towns, especially those in the foothills and mountains in Western Maine, are adopting ordinances that would give them control over where new wind facilities would be located.

An out-of-state developer recently purchased tax maps from the town that include the ridge lines of Varnum, Derby and Dean mountains and Center Hill but no further inquiry has been made, according to officials.

“Without local regulations to address wind-energy-facility development, there exists the potential for serious public impacts if such facilities are developed,” the proposed moratorium states. “Serious public impacts may include … safety problems, visual degradation, noise, environmental degradation, loss of property value, and health problems.”

If voters approve the moratorium, no development could occur for 180 days effective Feb. 14, the date the proposal was filed with the town. By that time, a wind-power ordinance could be in place.

Under state law, a town can vote to extend a moratorium for an additional 180 days.

During the next six months, a committee, working with a lawyer, would hammer out a draft, likely using a model ordinance developed by the State Planning Office. Informational meetings and public hearings would be held to keep the community informed, officials said.

The proposed ordinance would include a permitting process and requirements including use of public roads, sound level limits, visual impact and appearance, and incompatible land uses that would affect water quality, soil erosion and natural habitats.

The regulations would also specify setbacks from property lines and establish the developer’s liability if the project is discontinued in the future.

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