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Ordinance could revive Antrim Wind project

ANTRIM – Wind energy may get a new life in Antrim after a petition warrant article with 42 signatures was submitted to go before voters at Town Meeting in March. The language asks residents to amend the zoning ordinance to allow the development of commercial wind farms. The ordinance could pave the way for another Antrim Wind project, this one with nine turbines on the Tuttle Hill ridge line and Willard Mountain. Earlier this year, a proposal with 10 turbines was rejected by the state’s Site Evaluation Committee based on aesthetic concerns.

The SEC later denied an application by Antrim Wind and the town of Antrim, among others, for a rehearing of the case.

In an interview Friday, Jack Kenworthy, CEO of Eolian Energy, the parent company for Antrim Wind, said that Antrim Wind would not be appealing the decision. The SEC has the discretion to make judgments based on aesthetics, noted Kenworthy, so it would be a waste of time and money to argue that point.

According to Kenworthy, Antrim Wind would still like to build a wind facility on the property. The site has good wind, no need for new transmission lines, and a large faction of support in town, which is an attractive combination.

“The time for appeal is over. If there were any basis in the law, we would fight it,” Kenworthy said. “Though we continue to maintain the SEC’s decision was the height of unreasonableness, that would not be the basis of an appeal. But that’s not to say we’re finished with that site.”

Antrim Wind hopes to resubmit a reconfigured project plan through either the SEC or the town of Antrim, said Kenworthy on Friday. That will be at least a few months down the line, however, he added, as Antrim Wind makes the decision on whether they plan to resubmit through the town or the state, and waits out some potential changes in the process that are currently proposed. Since the new project would produce under 30 megawatts, it is unknown whether Antrim Wind is required to get state approval.

In past years, Antrim tried twice to pass a large-scale wind ordinance in town, and both times it failed to pass in March.

The new petition ordinance would limit wind farm noise to 50 decibels during the daytime, and 45 decibels at night, or 5 decibels above normal ambient sound, whichever is greater. The maximum height of turbines is limited to 500 feet. Proposed setbacks are 2,200 feet from occupied buildings and 1.1 times the turbine height from property lines and 1.5 times the turbine height from public roads. The previously proposed project included turbines that would pass the ordinance’s height requirements.

If the amendment is adopted, petitioner Benjamin Pratt of Antrim said Monday that he hopes turbines will be built in the western part of town. “The wind source in that area is quite steady,” Pratt said.

Antrim resident Loranne Block, who has been a vocal critic of the plan since its inception, said in an interview Monday that this warrant article is overly vague, and is lacking in protection for property values and changes to taxes. “They should have come up with a comprehensive article,” Block said. “Nothing’s laid out – no details.”

Block said there are more efficient ways to conserve energy. “It’s a lot of destruction for a little production,” Block said. “We would do more if we adopted more conservation measures.”

In a letter sent to the town on Dec. 20, Antrim Wind said that since each turbine produces 3 megawatts of energy, and that the total project would be under 30 megawatts, that it’s possible the SEC would not need to approve the project.

The Planning Board will decide at a public hearing on Jan. 16 whether to recommend the article, Planning Board Chair Jesse Lazar said in an interview Monday. Regardless of whether the Board recommends it, the article will still appear on the voting ballot in March.

Lazar said that the deadline passed for submitting petition warrant articles. He said there are no other wind-related articles trying to get on the ballot this year.