May 14, 2011

Sumner considers wind power options

By Tom Standard, Special to the Sun Journal, 14 May 2011

SUMNER – The Planning Board held a special meeting Thursday night to determine their response to an informal proposal for a wind farm on Mt. Tom.

The proposal was made by Clear Sky Energy LLC of Barnstable, Mass. The company’s representative had asked the Planning Board to consider three options for reviewing the plan since Sumner has no wind power ordinance.

Planning Board members discussed the options with the selectmen Tuesday night, assuring the selectmen that they would develop a recommendation at Thursday’s meeting.

Selectman Glenn Hinckley said he would not be in favor of a moratorium if it were recommended. Selectman Mark Silber said he would have to think about the issue. Selectman Mary Ann Haxton was unable to attend and has not expressed an opinion.

The options considered are to just work in good faith with Clear Sky on a “special application,” to accept “best practices” or to pass a moratorium ordinance to provide time for the Planning Board to write a wind energy facility ordinance.

The members spent more than two hours discussing the merits of the three options and developing a recommendation for the selectmen.

The good faith “special application” approach was finally rejected because it is a one-time solution and does not address similar projects that may be proposed in the future.

The “best practices” approach was finally rejected because what was done in other communities might not be best for Sumner and might fail to address the concerns of its residents.

The board decided that a moratorium to provide time for fact finding, public hearings and the writing of an ordinance is the best option.

The moratorium would be for 180 days with the provision that the selectmen could extend it for an additional 180 days. During the moratorium the Planning Board would seek technical advice from Clear Sky and other sources.

The moratorium requires the approval of town residents in a special town meeting. If the selectmen do not call the meeting, it will be up to residents to petition for one.

Planning Board member Ed Hinshaw, while agreeing that the selectmen have a predilection for wind power, said he felt they would support a vote on the moratorium.

“Do they want to make the decision and claim ‘leadership’ or to duck the issue and be overrun by angry citizens?” he asked. He referred to the selectmen in the adjoining town of Buckfield who approved the installation of a wind farm in their town only to be quickly shot down by a citizens’ petition calling for a moratorium and the creation of a wind power ordinance.

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