Freedom – Freedom selectmen put a proposed wind energy moratorium on the back burner Monday, June 13, proposing instead a broad, six-month ban on large commercial and industrial development.
Residents are now slated to vote on the “Commercial and Industrial Development Moratorium Ordinance of the Town of Freedom,” as the selectmen’s proposal is named, on Monday, June 20.
Selectman Ronald Price said the wind moratorium, which came before the selectboard as a result of a citizens’ petition, was tabled June 13 because Selectman Clint Spaulding was absent and Price said he would have had to recuse himself from voting on the wind ordinance because of his involvement with the Beaver Ridge Wind development.
Price and Selectman Brian Jones, however, pitched an alternative to the wind ordinance, proposing that the town enact a six-month moratorium on all commercial development.
Freedom currently has no land use ordinance to govern commercial development. The selectmen’s proposal would prevent new commercial development while the town completes its comprehensive plan and develops, according to a copy of the proposed moratorium, “suitable land use ordinances and regulations to adequately address public safety and environmental concerns, and to protect public resources that may be affected as the result of such development.”
Both Jones and Price noted that the wind power issue has been divisive, and said the proposal to cast a wider net was made in an effort to be fair.
Jones said the present lack of zoning ordinances leaves the town at risk for any number of potentially disruptive commercial developments.
“We could have a topless coffee bar in town,” he said. “Someone could put a rock crusher next to my house, or put a 10,000-head hog farm across from the town office, as well as erect commercial wind turbines, without any regulation.”
Jones and Price voted June 13 to call a special town meeting for residents to vote on the moratorium, to be held the following week – Monday night, June 20.
Town officials have been criticized in recent months by residents who have claimed they didn’t have ample notice or information prior to votes on major issues, particularly around a proposed fire truck purchase, an issue now slated for a third vote in July.
But Jones defended the decision to hold the town meeting on the proposed development ordinance with the minimum notice period of seven days.
“Practically speaking the town is exposed,” he said. “So there’s no reason to delay… If there’s an efficiency, why would you not use it?”
Jones said that same efficiency could just as easily apply to a repeal of the ordinance if it is later found to be onerous.
Steve Bennett, who circulated the wind development moratorium petition, did not immediately respond to phone and email requests Tuesday, June 14 for comment on the status of the wind moratorium petition.
Upcoming Freedom town meetings and referendums:
• Monday, June 20 – Special town meeting to vote on a 180-day moratorium on commercial development. Dirigo Grange Hall, 7 p.m. A selectmen’s meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the Town Office to allow the selectmen to sign the warrants for the July 26 referendum and other business, as necessary.
• Tuesday, July 26 – Referendum, to vote on the following issues: purchase of a new fire truck; a proposed recall of Selectman Ronald Price; a proposed recall of Selectman Clint Spaulding; and possibly the wind energy development moratorium that was tabled June 13. A public hearing will be held sometime in advance of the referendum on the fire truck article, according to selectmen.
• The town’s new comprehensive plan may come up for a vote in August, according to selectmen.
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