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Voters will decide on wind ordinance

ANTRIM – After months of debates that divided the town, Antrim residents will weigh in on an ordinance that may affect future wind energy developments in Antrim at a special town meeting Tuesday.

Residents will vote on two ballot items, which were drawn up by the planning board during public hearings held throughout the summer and early fall.

The first ballot item proposes a zoning ordinance that would regulate construction of large-scale wind energy projects.

The second item is an amendment to the ordinance that would restrict wind energy development to areas outside the Rural Conservation District.

“The ordinance is intended to cover wind facilities that are larger than 100 kilowatts,” said David A. Dubois, a planning board member. “The goal of the ordinance is protect the town and give developers guidelines for developing projects from that.”

Debates about wind energy development were spurred when Eolian Renewable Energy proposed a 30-megawatt, eight- to 10-turbine wind facility for Tuttle Hill and Willard Mountain earlier this year.

In June, the state Site Evaluation Committee took over jurisdiction of the project because of the disagreements amongst town officials. Eolian’s project application to the committee is due in January.

The town planning board accelerated the drafting and voting process, holding the upcoming special town meeting in the hopes that the evaluation committee will take the ordinance into consideration for the Eolian project if it passes, Dubois said.

“The Site Evaluation Committee does not have to take the ordinance into consideration, but they did say at a public hearing that they would likely consider any local regulations that the town has in place,” Dubois said. “Eolian has also stated that they realize this ordinance does not affect them, because the state has jurisdiction.”

Dubois said the controversy surrounding the wind project and ordinance started because some believe the ordinance is too restrictive and will prevent development within the town.

“However, the ordinance is not intended to prohibit wind energy facilities – it is in fact designed to allow wind development throughout the town,” Dubois said. “The regulations in the ordinance will just limit where projects can be built.”

The regulations include noise-level requirements and setback requirements – the turbines must be a distance of six times their length away from any buildings in town.

Though the planning board as a whole supports the measures, Chairman Andrew Robblee does not.

“Personally, I think is narrow-minded and short-sighted as a town,” Robblee said. “If the second article on the ballot passes, it would outright ban wind development in the Rural Conservation District, and I think it’s a shame to take land that is so suitable for development and ban it there.”

The town’s board of selectmen is advocating for residents to vote against the ordinance Tuesday.

The board believes it is too restrictive and that it would be detrimental to the town to submit an ordinance “that is so stringent that it prohibits a wind energy facility anywhere in Antrim,” according to a news release.

“At the local level, the ordinance won’t affect the (Eolian) wind project at this time,” Robblee said. “But, it’s important that the people in Antrim get out and vote one way or another.”

u Voting will take place Tuesday from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. at the Antrim Town Hall.