More than 300 Frankfort residents packed into Frankfort Elementary School’s gymnasium for their annual town meeting Friday, March 29, and defeated a warrant item that would have allowed landowners to develop a wind farm on their Mount Waldo property.
Article 4 on the Frankfort warrant asked whether voters would accept a Consent Order that would settle a lawsuit brought by the landowners against the town over a 2011 ordinance that prohibited wind turbines in the town.
Ruth Allen, whose family are among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, told the Journal, “I don’t think anyone would want to be told what they can do with their land.”
According to the selectmen, the Consent Order would not overturn the ordinance, but would allow the landowners who sought to develop the land for wind power prior to the prohibition to do so. They would still require federal and state permits, but the town would not object to the project.
The vote was held by secret ballot, with 131 voting to accept the Consent Order and 178 voting against. Several residents spoke on both sides of the issue – one resident called the ordinance prohibiting turbines “deeply flawed,” while others said they preferred having the court rule on the issue rather than settling.
One man who spoke noted that several of the plaintiffs’ claims had already been denied by the court, saying, “Let’s vote no, let’s let them spend more money on lawyers and see if they can win this in court!”
Frankfort Planning Board Chair Shawn Stone supported allowing the wind farm to move forward, saying, “We never should have done the ordinance the way we did it; these landowners have a right to use their land.”
The selectmen explained that the item was placed on the warrant as part of an agreement with the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Under that agreement, Frankfort put the Consent Order on the warrant and the plaintiffs dropped the monetary damage claims that were part of their suit – whether the town voted in favor of the Consent Order or not.
Since the voters defeated the item, the lawsuit to allow the development of Mount Waldo will continue, but the town will not face paying damages.
The gymnasium, which was standing-room-only at the beginning of the meeting, emptied out after the vote on Article 4. The rest of the 72 articles in the warrant were passed as recommended by the selectmen with little or no discussion. However, the residents voted down an item to allow selectmen to increase the property tax levy limit imposed by state law, which forced the town to cut all funding for local charities – a total of $7,490 – including Waldo Community Action Partners, Broadreach Family and Community Services, Central Maine Area Agency of Aging and New Hope for Women.
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