In recent years there have been no shortage of companies coming into Waldo County towns with proposals to bring in the kinds of developments that we’ve come to describe as “big industrial things” – a broad term that includes everything from windmills to big gas tanks.
A company might begin with a preemptive pitch – perhaps in the form of an informational meeting or two, with coffee, cookies and informational pamphlets with glossy photographs depicting smiling employees. Then before the coffee pots have cooled, company representatives are back before the towns to see if any local regulations stand in the way of constructing that big industrial thing. Maybe, as was the case with DCP Midstream and its proposed propane gas terminal in Searsport, there’s talk of asking voters to approve a few ordinance changes so their would-be facility could be a better fit for the community.
What almost always counters this chain of events is the immediate efforts of local residents to educate themselves – and each other – about the industries and companies that want to move in.
Searsport Shores co-owner Astrig Tanguay, who is speaking in Searsport and Belfast next week, has expressed concern not only about what impacts a 137-foot-tall propane gas storage tank might have on her business, but also on businesses from Augusta to the Deer Isle Peninsula.
While Searsport has dealt with big tanks, many other Waldo County towns have had potential wind operations to consider. At least half a dozen Waldo County towns have adopted wind-related ordinances since the Beaver Ridge wind development settled into Freedom several years ago.
When the Portsmouth, NH firm Eolian Renewable Energy approached the town of Frankfort about placing wind turnbines at the top of Mount Waldo, residents there passed a 180-day moratorium on all wind energy developments in an effort to learn more about the proposal and draft an ordinance specific to that industry.
Jackson residents also used a moratorium as a way to buy time while they researched and drafted an ordinance.
Sometimes residents take a proactive approach, as was the case in Unity, where residents enacted an ordinance to address wind turbines that were higher than 150 feet. Voters there made that decision before any wind companies came knocking because, as Compehensive Planning Committee Chairman John Piotti said, “people wanted to get out in front of it.”
By passing such ordinances, no one is outwardly saying these companies can’t come in – though sometimes that’s the effect. By taking the time to conduct research and draft ordinances governing what these companies can and cannot do, each town is putting its collective knowledge to good use – in other words, that big industrial thing can come in, but only on our terms.