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Third wind power ordinance approved by Rumford selectmen

RUMFORD – Selectmen are hoping the third time is a charm after unanimously voting for a proposed Wind Energy Facility Ordinance on Thursday night.

Voters will decide in November whether to adopt it.

“I think the board accomplished what they set out to do, which was make a compromise on the ordinance and protect the citizens,” Town Manager Carlo Puiia said.

He said the evidence was in the setbacks from property lines, sound decibels and decommissioning of turbines.

In the first ordinance, which was often referred to as an anti-wind ordinance, the setback for turbines was 5,280 feet. The second ordinance put forth had the setback at 3,000 feet. The latest draft has a setback of 4,000 feet.

During the public hearing on the ordinance before the board met, Selectman Jeremey Volkernick expressed concerns over limiting the number of turbines for a project for at least the first year.

“I feel very strongly having limits for the first year to see how things go, because if these go up and things don’t go the way we expect the only leg we have to stand on is this ordinance,” he said.

Selectman Greg Buccina disagreed with putting in a set number to limit turbines and said the board had to find common ground.

“We are starting off with something that will probably end up being changed. That’s why we have an amendment process,” Buccina said. “This isn’t going to be perfect but at least it’s a start.”

Puiia suggested adding language that would allow the town to deny or limit the total number of wind towers based on the need to study each project, manage growth, or consider any cumulative effects.

Selectmen agreed, saying adding Puiia’s suggestion would best fit each person’s concern for limiting the number of wind towers and any possible litigation that would occur with a set number.

Albert Aniel, who offered opinions and information at most of the workshops, said he believed, overall, the ordinance was very good.

“I think this one is based more on science than emotion and leaves the door open for wind energy to come into town,” he said. “I think these type of standards that protect the environment and people need to be followed for any industry that comes to town.”

Jim Thibodeau, who was on the first wind ordinance committee, said he still believed the original ordinance was what the town needed. He said he thought the town was given a lot of misquotes and were led to believe that the committee was made up of anti-wind citizens.

“I think this is a compromise and the board set out to do what we need to do to protect the citizens,” Thibodeau said. “I’m not anti-wind. I just want to protect the town.”

In other news, the charter amendment to allow the town to hire nonresidents for the town auditor, town attorney, code enforcement officer, plumbing inspector, and sealer of weights and measures was passed unanimously by the board.