SUMNER – More than 50 residents attended an informational meeting on the proposed industrial wind ordinance on Wednesday night, listening to arguments for and against.
Selectman Mary Ann Haxton moderated the meeting. She and committee members stressed that if the town adopts an ordinance it maintains control of wind power developments. She said the ordinance would protect the town in the four major areas of economics, environment, safety and health.
“The intent of the ordinance is to eliminate the downside risk while maximizing the upside potential,” Chairman Larry O’Rourke said.
Clear Sky Energy LLC of Barnstable, Mass., has proposed building five wind turbines on Spruce Hills, which includes, Mount Tom in the southwest area of town off Decoster Road.
O’Rourke pointed out that without an ordinance, any wind developer can place a wind farm in Sumner using the state fast-track permitting procedures and only complying with the lax state regulations. He said that within the month, two Maine towns that did not have local wind ordinances lost in state court when they tried to halt wind installations they said were damaging to the town and its residents.
O’Rourke showed state revenue calculations that indicate nearly three-quarters of Sumner taxpayers would receive less than $50 a year in benefits for the life of the Clear Sky project, if it’s built.
He said that the ordinance would require developers to compete to maximize benefits to the town and require an agreement that the town’s income would increase if the developer’s income increases in the future. He said that the ordinance would require the town to determine the best deal it can get then to decide if it is worth it.
Health Subcommittee Chairman Lana Pratt and member Jeff Pfeifer said there is no acceptable level of damage to the health of Sumner residents. They said they had done extensive research on health concerns and solicited input from residents on an acceptable setback for the wind turbines.
Resident Bob Kennelly said it appeared the committee was trying to write an ordinance that would prevent installation of wind turbines in Sumner. He said he was familiar with the installations in Lincoln and near his camp in Danforth. He said there was no objectionable noise or vibration from the turbines. He had seen wildlife go under the wind turbines and one of his friends bagged a moose under one this year, he said.
Kennelly said he believes Sumner needs the new source of revenue and that while an ordinance should protect the town it should not be overly restrictive.
Another resident said she knew of two towns that had rejected wind installations and then regretted the loss of revenue.
There will be a public hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2, in the Hartford-Sumner Elementary School on the ordinance, including changes recommended at Wednesday’s meeting. The ordinance will be posted on the town website by Sunday.
A draft with Wednesday’s recommendations will be presented to selectmen at their meeting Tuesday, Nov. 8.
A final public hearing is set for Wednesday, Nov. 9.
A vote on the ordinance is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16, at the school.
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