Rumford, Maine-The finally step was taken tonight in the ordinance development processes before taking the Wind Energy Facilities Ordinance to the voters June 14. This attempt is expected to pass as it provides protections for the health, safety, and welfare of the Town of Rumford and its residents with sound and setback standards at or exceeding Current World Health Organization Standards and would be workable for developers bringing hoped for development to the town as expressed by voters in two previous votes.
Chairman of the Board Brad Adley and Jeff Sterling each began the hearing with a brief histories “of how we got here” from June 2009 when Adley pushed at the request of citizens to put a wind question on the ballot. That question asked if the citizens of Rumford wanted wind power development with the results being 751 yes and 364 no.
Objectors to wind then obtained signatures for a special town meeting for a moratorium. Only few people turned out for this night meeting and voted this in overriding the previous more than 2-1 vote at the polls favoring wind power development. A committee was established to provide education on the advantages and disadvantages of wind power. Instead, they immediately began work on a permanent moratorium ordinance which went to voters last November. This permanent moratorium was defeated 1339 to 1048 again showing the citizens of Rumford desire wind development.
The Select Board then extended the moratorium to give themselves time to take over the responsibility and develop a proper ordinance in keeping with the will of the people while providing for protections for the health, safety, and welfare of the Town and residents.
The board began their work using the State Planning Office Model as a template. After several months work the board became the beneficiary of an unfortunate illness by board member Jeffrey Sterling who utilized his recuperation time to the benefit of the community to reevaluate the original Rumford ordinance proposal as a possible template and determining this could be used not with tweaking but a complete rework and undertook the rewrite unbeknownst to the rest of the board or the town manager. Once the draft was completed Sterling submitted his work to the town manager and board chair who concurred it should be presented to the board as a whole. Sterling hoped this document would draw Selectpersons Buccina and Volkernick back into the process.
Jeff Sterling used information from the meetings with Andrew Fisk of Maine DEP, from ordinances from many other communities within the United States and abroad as well as a vast amount of research material. He did not use the permanent moratorium ordinances of Buckfield, Phillips or Dixmont in developing his draft.
Mr. Sterling recounted having had serious objections to the advisory committee’s proposal which was a permanent moratorium originating from the Dixmont ordinance then made even more restrictive. He and the board did not feel they could change a single word however without being blamed should the proposal fail. Therefore, they chose to put the advisory committee’s ordinance forward just as it came out of the committee. He said, “at some point they have to accept a permanent moratorium, the original would not pass.”
Both Sterling and Adley recounted the board having requested written citizen input at the April 17 meeting and having received none.
Sterling showed a photo he received at the previous meeting from an individual opposed to wind energy development. He told how the picture was being distributed as a warning as to what would happen without upfront decommissioning funding. The picture has been said to describe an abandoned wind farm in Hawaii. In fact it is a photo taken in 2005 of a wind farm that is still operational of older turbines that were slated for replacement as part of the ongoing upgrades at the wind farm that had been in existence for nearly 20 years at the time the photo was taken. When Sterling had asked the individual who gave him the photo for source information that person could not provide it but insisted it was an abandoned wind farm in Hawaii.
Sterling advises citizens to ask for sources and verify what they are told. If the person cannot provide the source or the information cannot be verified it should be disregarded for there are those that will give you misinformation some inadvertently, others deliberately.
Selectperson Jeremy Volkernick said he did not prepare a written statement in advance of the meeting. He did say he wanted to use the advisory committee ordinance as a template. He does not support this ordinance however. He wants more time to work on the ordinance. He said, “If they can’t read or they are blind or something maybe they can get someone to read this to them or get some video tapes. If you don’t know how to read get someone to do it.”
Selectperson Mark Belanger commended Jeff Sterling for his work stating, “this is not as stringent as the original, not as week as DEP. This is good for Rumford.”
Greg Buccina stated, “I’m not supporting this. We need to do this over. We need to clarify the benefits. Every time we have a meeting we talk about staying in the LD limits. We need to look at that. We need to look at that. When is this going to. Why don’t these companies come to the board and tell us all their business. Why are they having private meetings negotiating with land owners for us of their land. $65 million valuation increase will bring our taxes down one mil rate.. We should know that. This should all be spelled out in the ordinance. Decommissioning? How will we be compensated? How will we benefit? Urge not accept.”
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