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Sumner passes wind ordinance, 159 to 79

SUMNER – Voters at a special town meeting on May 16 overwhelmingly passed a Industrial Wind Facility Ordinance, regulating wind power development in Sumner, with 159 in favor and 79 opposed.

The vote came after nearly 12 months of work by the Industrial Wind Ordinance Committee. During the process committee members had a difficult time agreeing on certain language that would best protect the town of Sumner and its residents.

There were 239 voters in attendance, with one person casting a blank ballot.

Moderator of the meeting, Glen Holmes, director of Western Maine Economic Development Council, said that if the vote been defeated by a no, Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) guidelines would prevail.

Resident Pamela Cheesman noted the DEP guidelines are relatively weak.

For instance, DEP requires a setback of only one-and-one-half times the tower’s height, while the ordinance requires a one-mile setback from the nearest landowner’s property line.

In addition to the one-mile setback, committee members said the ordinance has several other features that would protect the town of Sumner – such as requiring the developer to post a performance bond for removing towers and restoring the site – whereas DEP guidelines do not. Instead, it forces towns to bear the decommissioning cost if the developer abandons the project.

Last year, the town was approached by Clear Sky Energy LLC of Barnstable, MA, to erect five wind turbines on Spruce Hills, which includes Mount Tom off of Decoster Road.

Under an ordinance that is clear, reasonable and enforceable, committee members and others agree that the town is put in a better bargaining position should a developer wish to build a wind facility in Sumner.