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Wind rules, revised; Antrim to hold hearing on new ordinance

ANTRIM – The town’s planning board is again proposing a set of rules for large-scale wind energy facilities, two months after voters shot down similar proposed ordinances.

The new ordinance is more relaxed, said planning board Chairman Andrew J. Robblee, who did not support the previous proposal because he thought it was too restrictive. He called this ordinance a “workable” solution.

The new version has less restrictive environmental standards compared to the prior version. It also allows wind energy generators to be slightly louder, slightly closer to buildings and more visible. But selectmen Chairman Michael D. Genest isn’t convinced it will pass.

“I feel they didn’t make any real substantial changes,” he said of the planning board. And after the vote in November, it was clear voters wanted substantial changes to the ordinance, he said.

There will be a public hearing on the new ordinance next week, and the planning board hopes to get it on March’s warrant.

The large-scale wind energy ordinances were first proposed in response to plans to build a 10-turbine facility on Tuttle Hill from Portsmouth-based Eolian Renewable Energy, through its subsidiary Antrim Wind Energy.

After disagreement among town officials on Eolian’s plan, the company and selectmen petitioned the state’s Site Evaluation Committee – a group made up of members from various state agencies – to review the project to decide if and how it can move forward, which it did this summer.

The planning board opposed that move, and proposed the town draft its own large-scale wind energy ordinance to avoid this disagreement in the future by having a clear set of rules.

Even if the ordinance passes, it likely won’t have an effect on Eolian’s project. According to state law, the committee must consider local zoning and planning rules but may overlook them so long as the decision does not “unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region.”

Robblee said he hopes voters will be able to separate in their minds the issues of the Eolian project and future wind energy development in town. The ordinance would not prohibit future wind energy developments, he said, but establish rules for such projects.

u The public hearing on the revised large-scale wind energy ordinance is scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m. at town hall.