FARMINGTON – Debbie Huddleston and her husband bought their home 15 years ago because the site was quiet and had picturesque views of farmland off Bailey Hill Road.
When they learned recently about a neighbor’s plan to have wind turbines built on the farmland, the couple feared their peaceful existence and property value would suffer.
With the passage this week of a town ordinance regulating wind energy projects, the couple is anxiously waiting to see if the new rules will be strict enough to address their concerns.
The proposal to build at least two commercial wind turbines on Bailey Hill Farm property is expected to be the first test for the local ordinance, which adds local rules for turbine noise, setbacks and other wind-energy issues.
Questions raised by the Huddlestons and other residents, however, have already prompted a town official to consider looking at amending the ordinance to address potential problems before wind energy projects start filing applications.
Huddleston, 55, and her husband, Tom, are worried the rules fall short of protecting them from turbine noise and negative effects on her view. She said these problems could mean any chance to sell their Davis Road home would also disappear.
“I would have never bought this house if I knew this (project) was going in across the street,” she said.
Konrad Bailey, who owns the farmland where the turbines would be built, said this week he plans to work with the Huddlestons and other neighbors to address their concerns before moving forward with the project.
“It’s not in my best interest to be enemies with my neighbors,” he said.
Clayton King Jr., chairman of the town planning board behind the new ordinance, on Friday said he will look into concerns raised by the Huddlestons and other town residents about the rules adopted Monday.
King noted the planning board spent more than 18 months working on the ordinance, making its decisions based on the information available at the time. He said rapidly evolving studies about wind turbines’ safety standards have changed in recent months, forcing the planning board to play catch up.
“I can foresee us making some changes and tweaking the ordinance in the near future,” King said.
Voters would probably be asked to approve any ordinance amendments at a special town meeting, he said.
Meanwhile, because voters overwhelming approved the ordinance Monday at the annual Town Meeting, the town at least has more protection against problems tied to wind energy projects than it did before, King said.
He said passing the ordinance was prudent, giving the community a tool to better control the issues tied to wind energy projects. Without an ordinance, the town’s only protection is a site review ordinance that is effective but doesn’t deal with the unique factors involved in wind turbine development, he said.
Wind energy projects have to meet some state guidelines, but passing a local ordinance gives a community more control.
Many Maine communities have enacted their own ordinances in recent years. The idea to build wind turbines off Bailey Hill Road gained steam after the family farm started struggling in 2007, Bailey said.
Bailey, 50, and his wife raised their two children on the farm, which has been in the family for generations and is on a lot adjacent to the proposed site for the wind turbines, he said.
Bailey owns 400 acres in the area and couldn’t sustain his dairy farm without making some changes, he said. The farm started producing hay, selling wood and took on other business ventures to stay afloat.
He described the wind turbines as another way to help diversify and keep running the farm – another asset. The company behind the project is still in the planning stages and has been doing studies to follow the regulations in the town’s new wind ordinance,
Bailey said. He added his plan is to follow those local rules and talk to town officials and residents about their concerns before deciding to proceed.
“It’s not in anybody’s interest to cram this down peoples’ throats,” Bailey said.
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