Concerned property owners of Trescott Township gathered at the Cobscook Community Learning Center on Saturday to strategize ways in gaining back the rights that were quietly taken from them by the Maine Legislature in 2008. A law had been passed that would allow fast-track wind development in nearly two-thirds of the state. The UT (Unorganized Territories) in Maine was divided into two parts and grid-scale wind power permitting and rules were adopted in correlation to the location. Unfortunately, residents living in expedited unorganized territories lost access to their town government (Land Use Planning Commission) when the law was passed, and as a result lost their voice to speak out, while those living in organized territory and non-expedited UT still obtain the right to be involved in future wind power development within their communities. Many expedited UT residents are unaware that this has happened.
Hosting the meeting was Katherine Cassidy. Cassidy reminded the audience that the focus of the assembly was not targeted towards future wind power development in Maine. The urgent cause for the gathering was to recognize that the rights of certain citizens are being jeopardized. “It’s not about wind power. It’s about citizens rights,” said Cassidy. Early in 2013 a bill was proposed known as LD 616, An Act To Amend the Expedited Permitting Area for Wind Energy Development under the Jurisdiction of the Land Use Planning Commission (a carry over bill involving a two-year term process). The title of this bill can be misleading to its purpose. Just by reading the title one would assume that it is an act geared toward wind energy development. However, this proposed bill is the first step taken in giving back rights to expedited UT residents.
Cassidy admitted at the meeting that she voted against the bill last year, confused by its intention. Information given at the meeting on Saturday showed that every Republican that voted in 2013 towards LD 616 was in favor. She shared with the audience the belief that she was not the only representative that did not fully understand LD 616, and continued by stating that, “it’s got to take an educational process.” Cassidy then shared with the audience that it is crucial for the community to reach out to the Democrats and say, “please pass LD 616.”
Like Cassidy, the audience agreed that they need to do everything they can to get representatives to vote “ought to pass” on the bill when it is purposed in its’ second term. Some are uncomfortable passing LD 616, believing that the action may prevent future wind energy development in Maine. This is untrue. LD 616 will allow residents to participate in zoning hearings held by their local government. Zoning decisions are made by the LUPC if the purposed act is approved. The bill does not give affected UT residents more rights. It is an effort to restore the rights that were taken from UT residents in 2008. “The Legislature finds that it is desirable to honor the rights and participation of residents and property owners in the unorganized and deorganized areas while recognizing the unique value of these lands and waters to the State…” -12 MRSA §681
Knowing that the bill will be voted on again within the next month, residents who attended the meeting began strategizing. They came up with ways not only to reach out to the representatives that had voted against LD 616 in 2013, but ways in which to reach out to their neighbors for support. Even though there is a group of residents creating plans, it is crucial that they act as individuals when seeking support from legislatures: Keeping in mind that the collection of many voices is known to be loader verses one voice speaking for many. A work session geared toward getting bill 616 passed will take place Saturday the 8th at 9:30a.m. at the Cobscook Community Learning Center in Trescott. The work session is open to the public and residents urge anyone who is able, to attend. Getting the LD 616 approved will give expedited UT residents’ government (LUPC) more authority in relation to future wind energy development permitting, but some are unsure of what comes next. The focus of Trescott residents and other expedited UT residents is to get their rights back, and to be able to have a say in the development of their communities. That is the most important concern because without those rights they have no ground to stand on in future debates.
“We don’t have our own governing. We have limited local access to expressing ourselves and we understand that, but to have those limited rights taken away is what is most upsetting,” said Janet Weston, a Trescott Township Resident of 40-years.