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Freedom wind ordinance nears completion

The town of Freedom was something of a guinea pig when three industrial wind turbines were proposed to be built on Beaver Ridge in 2006. Conversations about setbacks from neighboring residences, noise levels, pressure waves, bird and bat surveys, blade flicker, constancy of power supply and potential health effects were brand new and the tax relief offered by the company was attractive to the rural town of just over 900 residents.

By 2008, when the Beaver Ridge wind turbines spun into action, the state had passed a law governing wind development, but Beaver Ridge was exempt because the local planning board had approved the project before the state law went into effect and local residents had rejected a proposed local wind ordinance.

Fast forward four years. Freedom has not seen the promised 27-percent reduction in property taxes. Instead, property taxes went up 9 percent this year. In the intervening years, all the surrounding Waldo County towns have passed local ordinances restricting where and how wind turbines can be constructed and under which conditions they can operate.

Now, the town of Freedom is in the process of doing the same so that any future wind-power development will be subject to local guidelines, including any changes or additions to the Beaver Ridge site.

The Freedom Planning Board will complete their review of the ordinance at their regular monthly meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 9, at the Freedom Town Office.

According to Planning Board Chairman Bill Pickford, the planning board expects to send the ordinance on to the Freedom Select Board when they complete their work. Pickford said the select board is likely to see the ordinance on their desks by mid-October.

Ron Price, chairman of the select board, is the owner of Beaver Ridge and his land is leased to Patriot Renewables of Quincy, Massachusetts, which owns and operates the wind turbines.

Price said the next step for the select board would be to hold a public meeting on the ordinance, followed by putting the ordinance up for a public vote, either by referendum, at a special town meeting, or at the annual town meeting.

Price said he would recuse himself from any select board votes or decisions related to the wind ordinance.

Patriot Renewables also operates Spruce Mountain Wind, a 10-turbine wind farm in Woodstock, Maine, and is developing Saddleback Ridge Wind farm with 12 turbines in Carthage, Canton Mountain Wind farm with eight turbines in Canton, and TimberWinds farm, which will have up to 13 turbines in Dixfield.