Newry selectmen have scheduled a public hearing for Nov. 21 on proposed ordinance changes regarding wind power, the town’s Conservation Commission and other issues.
The Planning Board drew up amendments to the Unified Development Review Ordinance to specifically address wind power.
The proposal draws on the work of an ad hoc Regional Wind Power Committee, composed of representatives from five area towns. That group worked for more than a year to create a document to guide area planning boards in crafting their own wind ordinances.
The committee addressed such issues as noise, blade flicker, safety setbacks and possible road damage from the transport of heavy tower parts. Those topics are included in the Newry plan.
The NPB proposal would limit commercial wind projects to the town’s Resort Development District (Sunday River Ski Resort), which, when combined with other regulations and easements, would mean the only location eligible for such a project would be the top of the Skiway’s Barker Mountain.
The other growth management districts in Newry include General Development (including commercial), Rural (with large blocks of forest and land) and Protection (to protect significant natural resources).
Selectman Chair Jim Largess has expressed concerns about restricting wind projects according to the districts.
Planning Board Chair Brooks Morton said that allowing them in the General Development District is impractical because the district only encompasses the town’s valleys, unsuitable for wind towers.
At last week’s selectmen’s meeting Largess reiterated his concerns, this time wondering if the Rural Development District might be a reasonable option.
Two days later, Morton brought the question back to planners at their meeting.
Morton said the ordinance only allows industrial development in the General and Resort districts, and noted planners had agreed that all industry should be treated the same. The ordinance is based on the town’s Comprehensive Plan, he said, and that would likely have to be altered to allow for expansion of development areas.
The board decided to stick with its recommendation and wait for feedback from townspeople.
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Selectmen are also proposing to drop the cost threshold that triggers the requirement to obtain a building permit for some projects.
Currently that cost threshold for projects to improve, maintain or repair existing structures is $25,000. But the town assessor is recommending a threshold of $2,500 because, according to Town Administrator Loretta Powers, the assessor uses the permits as a guide for reviewing and updating valuations for homes. She said there are many small projects taking place in town that are significant enough to impact a building’s valuation.
Another hearing topic addresses the formal establishment of the Newry Conservation Commission, which would advise selectmen on conservation issues. Commission members have met several times informally in the past year, but cannot take further steps unless the town decides to officially endorse its creation.
The Nov. 21 hearing will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the Raymond Foster Municipal Building. It will follow a regular selectmen’s meeting at 5:30.
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