RUMFORD – Despite spending more than two years to create a wind power ordinance that residents will adopt, many are still confused about what it means.
Town Manager Carlo Puiia said Tuesday that those who contacted him believe that by voting yes on it at the polls on Nov. 8 it means they are voting to allow wind towers.
“Some people are of the mindset that a ‘No’ vote means a vote against wind towers and a ‘Yes’ vote is a vote to allow wind towers,” he said.
Instead, he said a Yes vote to approve the ordinance will allow local regulation on wind towers.
“A ‘No’ vote is a vote to allow state regulation on wind towers,” Puiia said of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection wind project laws.
“This is not a vote for or against wind power, but a vote on how we govern a wind energy facility if one were to be built in our town.”
Clarifying a No vote, he said it has yet to be determined what will happen if the third proposed ordinance is defeated.
“If it is defeated, the majority of the board would have to decide what the next step would be, if any,” Puiia said.
“Ultimately, if they were to decide to let the moratorium expire and not resume or delegate another ordinance drafted, we would be governed by state DEP regulations.”
The first proposed wind ordinance, which many believed to be too restrictive, was defeated in November 2010. The second one, thought to be too liberal, was defeated in June.
“It’s still very much a divided issue where there are those who feel the state’s current standards are not protective enough on the issues that arise from generating wind,” Puiia said.
“Some citizens may support the proposed ordinance, because they feel the state standards are not sufficient to protect the citizens from issues associated with wind power generation and believe the proposed ordinance’s standards will.”
The third ordinance pendulums back toward the first proposal in that Puiia said he doesn’t believe it will allow any wind projects using current technology.
“Other citizens may not support the proposed ordinance, because they have a different opinion of the issues associated with wind power generation and believe that the proposed ordinance’s standards will jeopardize a project from happening,” he said.
Puiia said the board made compromises compared to November 2010 and June 2011 versus the third proposal. To view these, see the comparison chart on the town website at www.rumfordmaine.net.
“Certainly, it is a more protective ordinance just based on the sound standard and that seems to be the biggest issue of them all,” he said.
“I have not talked with any officials from First Wind, but it is my understanding that these standards would be too restrictive for a project that they were proposing.”
He said some citizens are concerned that the third proposal discourages the wind industry from considering Rumford as a site.
“That’s been the debate all along: Can we present an ordinance that would both protect the citizens and enable a project?” he asked.
“My only thought is there’d have to be changes in the technology of the turbines to meet these standards.”
He said he hoped that prior to Nov. 8 residents would discuss the issues with their neighbors, selectmen and even himself or do their own research.
The third proposal is also available for review on the town website.
To help Rumford residents better understand the third proposed wind ordinance on which they will vote at the polls on Nov. 8, the town placed a chart on its website. The chart compares key points between the first and second proposals that were defeated, and the third proposal.
Like the first proposal, the third one:
* Restricts nighttime sounds from turbines to 40 decibels and daytime sounds to 50 decibels. Forty decibels is the equivalent of a soft whisper at 5 feet away, while 50 decibels is equivalent to normal spoken voice.
* Gives the Planning Board 90 days to review a project.
* Requires inspections, an operational license, enforcement of a violation agreement provision, and pre-blast surveys.
Where it differs, the third proposal:
* Requires a 4,000 foot setback from non-participating property owners instead of 5,280 feet.
* Restricts blade flicker to no more than 12 hours a year instead of 10 hours annually.
* Carries no blade glint standard, but the developer must submit a sample of non-reflective paint to be used on the blades.
* Requires no sound study procedures and no mitigation waiver financial disclosure.
* Ensures Planning Board approval of the application following a public hearing in 90 instead of 120 days.
* Limits wind turbine height to 450 feet instead of 400 feet.
* Requires 50 percent decommissioning up front and 12.5 percent annually for two to five years instead of 100 percent up front.
* Allows 12 months for the project phasing plan instead of six months.
* Includes a community benefits provision.
The bullet point comparisons can be found on the town website at www.rumfordmaine.net.
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