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Dixfield selectmen schedule hearing, town meeting for wind moratorium

DIXFIELD – The Board of Selectmen voted Monday night to hold a public hearing and special town meeting Wednesday, Aug. 6, on a moratorium on wind power projects.

The moratorium, if passed, would give the town 180 days to revise its wind power ordinance.

Three years ago, Patriot Renewables, LLC, of Quincy, Mass., approached Dixfield about constructing 13 wind turbines on the Colonel Holman Mountain ridge. The corporation has been conducting research on the ridge, including wind tests, bird studies and environmental impacts.

Since January 2013, the Planning Board has been revising a wind power development ordinance that was rejected by voters in 2012. The revised version will be placed before voters.

Selectman Hart Daley said Monday that he attended the Planning Board’s recent meeting at which a lawyer with the firm Kelly and Associates wanted to know “why the town doesn’t have a moratorium in place while the ordinance’s revision process is going on.”

“What I took from that was that we should be listening to her legal advice,” Daley said. “She said that it would be two to four weeks before she would finish her final revision of the ordinance. After that, the Planning Board would have a final review before presenting it to the select board for our own final review. After we approve it, there needs to be a public hearing, and then a vote. You could be looking at months of this process.”

Daley suggested that selectmen adopt the language from the wind energy moratorium ordinance that was approved in 2009 and expired in 2010 after one year.

“The only thing that would change is the dates of the moratorium,” Daley said. “It would remain in effect until we actually vote on the revised ordinance.”

Selectman Mac Gill said he would feel “more comfortable with it if we had the lawyer’s comments in writing.

“I think that’s proper,” Gill said. “Not that I’m saying that you didn’t hear it differently at the Planning Board meeting, but I’d be more comfortable having what she said in writing.”

Town Manager Carlo Puiia said, “In terms of approving the moratorium, you can wait until your June 23 meeting to vote on setting a date for a public hearing and a special town meeting on the moratorium, since discussion on a moratorium was not on your agenda for tonight’s meeting.

“Another thing you can do, if you have the policy, is to see if a majority of the selectmen wish to declare this item as urgent,” Puiia said. “If a majority agrees, then you can vote tonight whether you wish to set a date for a public hearing and special town meeting.”

Daley said he thought “even waiting four days is too long.” He made a motion that the board vote to declare the need for a wind energy moratorium as an urgent item. The board voted 5-0 in favor.

Daley made a second motion to set a public hearing and special town meeting on the matter. It was approved 4-1, with Gill casting the dissenting vote.

The hearing and meeting will be held at Dirigo High School.