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Clifton farmers file complaint against Pisgah Mountain wind farm

BANGOR, Maine – After exhausting all of their local options for halting an industrial wind farm proposed for Pisgah Mountain, the owners of Rebel Hill Farm in Clifton are taking the matter to court.

In a complaint filed at Penobscot County Superior Court, Peter and Julie Beckford allege that town officials in Clifton erred in granting Pisgah Mountain LLC a permit for construction of a $25 million five-turbine wind facility.

They are asking that the court rule on several issues they raised and send the matter back to the planning board for additional findings of fact and “a decision consistent with this court’s holding.”

“We were undecided about this but due to the huge harm this development will do to us, and due to the support we have received from our community and neighbors, we feel bound to continue this fight,” Peter Beckford said Wednesday during a news conference in front of the Penobscot Judicial Center.

“The encouragement from people in our town and neighboring towns who do not want this built has energized us,” he said.

The Beckfords, who operate an organic perennial plant and maple sugar business on their 60-acre spread off Route 180, have opposed the project from the start. They say the wind farm would harm their health, happiness and quality of life and they intend to do everything in their power to stop it.

“We have confidence in the judicial system and look forward to the legal issues receiving a fair hearing. So far, we have basically been fighting city hall on their own turf,” Beckford said.

“Now we will have an impartial judge looking at the planning board’s violations of our town ordinance and their biased approach to the permitting process,” he said. “We have a lot of faith in Maine law and the common sense application of it and are hopeful that the permit will be revoked.”

Also speaking against the project at Wednesday’s news conference was Tom Duffy, who lives on Springy Pond in nearby Otis, where about 30 property owners signed a petition opposing the wind farm.

Duffy said that the turbines would affect the quality of life of people who have homes on Springy Pond, which straddles Clifton and Otis, but that Clifton officials ruled that the project would have no impact on Otis residents.

Pisgah Mountain LLC, a local partnership, already has the key permissions in hand as well as approval from residents and expects to have financing in place shortly. The partnership also has an agreement in place to sell electricity to Bangor Hydro Electric Co.

“It’s unfortunate but it’s due process. It’s what we in America have right to do,” Pisgah Mountain partner Paul Fuller said in a telephone interview after the news conference.

Though he noted that the appeal filed with the court temporarily clouded the financing for the project, Fuller noted that construction isn’t scheduled to start until next year.

“Legally with the permits we have in hand we could start construction now,” he said.

Fuller said the Pisgah partners are confident they ultimately will prevail because the issues on which the complaint is based have been addressed “multiple times.” He also said that Clifton planners drafted some of the strictest wind farm rules in the state.

In the complaint, the Beckfords allege that the turbines are located too close to two cabins on their property, that the developer’s own sound study predicts sound levels in excess of the town’s limit and that the developer has a nonbinding letter of interest from Camden National Bank but no actual financing.

The complaint also alleges that Pisgah Mountain did not submit an adequate environmental impact statement and did no inventory of mammals, plants and birds in the project area.

“Their site is a flyway for eagles and other migratory birds. I understand that if an eagle gets killed, someone will be paying a hefty fine and going to jail,” Beckford said.