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Wind energy: What's in it for me?

I sincerely hope each Rumford voter will understand the importance of a “no” vote to reject the selectmen’s proposed wind energy ordinance proposal when they visit the polls on June 14th.

After considerable local controversy, Rumford town officials approved the wind ordinance with an emotional split decision. It was clear to close observers the weakened wind ordinance was designed to accommodate First Wind LLC to expedite their project. The proposed ordinance doesn’t protect residents financially or environmentally.

We’ve heard a lot about the acronym NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) but only recently a Rumford resident went to selectmen and asked from the podium, “(WIIFM) What’s In It For Me?” I think it’s a great question to ask each and every Rumford property owner. There is a very diverse set of wind energy stakeholders who own property in the Black Mountain region. Over half of the 7,800 acres are owned by people who do not live near proposed turbine locations.

Residents who live close to proposed wind turbine sites have concerns about noise, property value losses, wildlife and their scenic views. These residents have nothing in it for them except a well-deserved “quality of place.”

Although we should appreciate each landowner’s right to make a profit from their respective landholdings, I sincerely hope that the majority of the Rumford voters lean toward understanding the plight of those residents who live close to the proposed wind energy facility. We are a neighborhood comprised of good and thoughtful people who care about their neighbors.

The proposed Wind Ordinance doesn’t protect the residents from the financial or environmental problems that

accompany wind turbines.

Recently, I requested information from Rumford officials regarding specific locations of the proposed 12 First Wind turbines.

My interest was stimulated by town Official’s insistence on a 3000-foot setback distance from the turbines to a structure.

That short distance put up a red flag. I wanted to understand how many homes and properties fell within this reduced distance or within a more reasonable distance of 5,000 feet. Town officials stated they had no information regarding the proposed locations. Although I feel they should have that information before they establish a 3000-foot set back distance, I proceeded with a study without turbine location information.

The study utilized the Rumford real estate commitment book to define who might have something to gain or lose. The study included each landowner and the land parcel acreage listed for any street in the Black Mountain region, and included landholdings of people listed as Rumford supporters on the recent pro-wind mailer from First Wind.

There are 21 out of state landowners who own large lots near the First Wind LLC proposed turbine locations; 15 Maine landowners who do not live in River Valley; 16 landowners who live in River Valley but are not Rumford citizens; 20 Rumford citizens who own large lots of land near the Black Mountain region but do not live there; and approximately 146 other Rumford residents who live near the Black Mountain region.

There are six Rumford residents who sponsored the First Wind letter to the voters. Two of them have large land holdings on South Rumford Road who could leverage a profit if a weak wind ordinance attracts other wind developers to the South Rumford region ridgelines. The letter was designed to mislead the voters.

Please think local and be skeptical of those who would sell our children’s mountains to the wind developer(s) for a small profit. I urge Rumford voters to vote “no” on the wind energy ordinance article. This will be a first step for our town to step back and understand if wind energy has a place in the Maine energy generation mix. I believe wind energy will become a thing of the past within 10 years. The next select board should insist upon transparency and resident protection. A proper protective wind ordinance can be developed before the November 2011 ballot.

Len Greaney,

Rumford Center