Sumner round three: An 81-to-9 defeat for Big Wind
June 6, 2011 Sumner: The energy was intense, and so anti-wind that people asked why the 180- day moratorium couldn’t be for five, 10 or more years. Anyone in favor of wind had to be keeping his head down. The requested written ballot tally told it all: 81 for, 9 against.
It was standing room only in the town’s largest meeting space—two fire engine bays with the engines parked outside. Joseph W. “Bill” Glass was elected moderator. The selectmen sitting at a table at the front of the room looked uncomfortable, two of them accused of being in favor of wind. Hostility simmered in the room during the meeting, despite friendly chatter that preceded and followed. Two years before, Wind had lost by only one vote. Later, it lost again, presumably by a better margin, based on a piece of ground. Some wondered why it had to be voted a third time. “Three strikes and you’re out! Why are we here?” asked one upset resident. The same person insisted the moratorium was just another way to let Wind in the back door.
This moratorium was the only action that could protect the town from Big Corporate Wind doing anything it liked, explained Jeffrey, one of the Planning Board members—all six members of the Planning Board were standing in the back of the room. The Maine Municipal Authority and the town lawyer had explained the need for the town to have this safety period in which to craft an ordinance because of weak state law, (what we refer to as expedited permitting). Planning board members further explained that the moratorium was modeled after what other towns have done.
The moderator, known as Bill by everyone there, reminded the audience that Northern New England benefited from “pure democracy” through its Town Meeting form of government. They needed to know and be assured that they had the power to control the outcome.
Jeffrey explained further that the moratorium could be extended if needed, or could end sooner if the planning board had an ordinance prepared before the 180 days were up. It was important that the moratorium time be used properly: doing nothing was not an option. Jeffrey also explained that any ordinance they created could be as restrictive or permissive as the town chose, that the final ordinance would be voted at Town Meeting. He assured all, both during the meeting and in close exchanges after the meeting, that residents could attend all the meetings and that the meetings would be well publicized, including to non-voting tax-paying residents.
After the meeting, I introduced myself to Jeffrey. Others came up to meet me as the chatter rumored that I was from “the mountains,” Friends of Maine’s Mountains. All seemed excited, almost relieved, that FMM could provide ordinance guidance, that we could also identify lawyers that might answer some of their questions, that we might already have some answers. As I shook hands goodbye for the third time, the excited and grateful Jeffrey thanked me, blurting out spontaneously, “You’re doing God’s work!” Wow! That made the drive more than worth it! And energized me for how important this work is.
Susan Davis of Kingfield is the executive director of Friends of Maine Mountains.
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