May 10, 2012

Dixfield residents air views on wind ordinance

Eileen M. Adams, Staff Writer, Sun Journal, 10 May 2012

DIXFIELD – Selectmen heard a variety of complaints against a proposed wind ordinance, as well as a few comments of support, at a public hearing Wednesday night at which nearly 75 residents attended.

The board will take the dozens of comments and recommendations presented and hold a workshop to decide whether any will be included in the document that will go before voters during the June 12 elections.

Town Manager Eugene Skibitsky said the project, valued at about $60 million, would bring more than a half-million dollars a year into the town coffers.

The wind farm, proposed by Patriot Renewables LLC of Quincy, Mass., would include about a dozen industrial wind turbines built along the Colonel Holman Mountain ridgeline. If built, its value would be more than a quarter of the town’s value right now. Skibitsky said the most recent state valuation sets that figure at $155 million, which is slightly less than in the past.

Many at the hearing, however, believe such development would devalue property, destroy the environment of the ridgeline, cause unhealthy levels of noise and take away the beauty of that part of town.

Scott Belskis and Hart Daley, both avid opponents of the project and candidates for selectmen, voiced many concerns.

“If you give them the $60 million project, they’ll ask for a tax break,” Belskis said.

He also questioned how the construction of wind turbines in remote locations would affect the fire department.

“Where’s the cash for that?” he asked.

Selectman Norine Clarke, one of the authors of the town’s proposed ordinance, said the project’s owner would be required to pay any expenses generated by the wind farm.

Daley wants a reduction in the allowable decibel level during nighttime hours from 42 to 35 and from 55 to 42 during the day.

“That would still exceed the quiet rural level,” he said.

Patriot Renewables Project Manager, Tom Carroll, said that change, as well as several others suggested by residents, would drive out the project.

Daley also called for a chance for voters to decide whether or not they want any type of industrial wind project.

Under the proposed ordinance, selectmen have said that they wanted to have some local control, rather than rely entirely on the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s regulations for wind projects.

Selectman Katherine Harvey also said that the ordinance was intended to protect Dixfield residents.

As it stands now, if the current locally devised ordinance is voted down, then the project could still go ahead under the DEP regulations.

Not everyone opposed the wind project, including East Dixfield resident Dick Hall.

“I’d like to have them put some on my farm,” he said.

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