SUMNER – Voters passed the Industrial Wind Power Ordinance on Wednesday night by a 2-1 ratio at a standing-room-only special town meeting in the fire barn.
The vote was 159-79. One person cast a blank ballot.
Western Maine Economic Development Council Director Glen Holmes moderated the meeting.
Industrial Wind Power Ordinance Committee member Jeff Pfeifer asked Holmes to clarify what a yes and a no vote meant.
Holmes explained that if the ordinance was adopted with a yes vote, it would regulate wind power development in Sumner. If it was defeated by a no vote, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection guidelines would prevail.
The vote was the culmination of nearly 12 months of work by the committee, which has been working during a moratorium on wind power projects.
The town was approached last year with an informal proposal by Clear Sky Energy LLC of Barnstable, Mass., to erect five wind turbines on Spruce Hills, which includes, Mount Tom in the southwest area of town off Decoster Road.
Resident Pamela Cheesman pointed out that the DEP guidelines are relatively weak. They require a setback of only one and one half times the tower height where the ordinance requires 1 mile from the tower to the nearest non-participating landowner’s property line.
Voters agreed to let nonresident property owner Chris Dwinal speak. He said the vote was not “for” or “against” wind power but rather was a vote on whether developers were bound by the inadequate DEP guidelines or by an ordinance that protected residents and their property value.
He pointed out that the committee members were the local experts on wind power since they had spent many hours doing research. He indicated that a strong ordinance put the town in a better bargaining position if a developer wished to build a wind facility in Sumner.
In addition to requiring a 1-mile setback, the ordinance has several other features committee members say will protect residents and the town.
It requires the developer to post a performance bond for removing the towers and restoring the site. The DEP does not require such a safeguard and it says towns may be forced to bear the decommissioning cost if the developer abandons the towers.
It requires town officials to investigate all complaints and to require compliance with the ordinance. The town can hire needed experts at the developer’s expense. Under DEP guidelines residents must hire their own experts and attorneys to enforce compliance or pursue complaints.
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