DIXFIELD – The Board of Selectmen unanimously voted Monday evening to postpone a hearing and special town meeting on a wind power project moratorium to Thursday, Aug. 21.
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 approved by voters in 2012. The revised version will be placed before voters at a later date.
During the June 16 board meeting, Selectman Hart Daley said he attended a recent Planning Board meeting at which lawyer Kristen Collins wanted to know why the town doesn’t have a moratorium while the ordinance is being revised.
Daley suggested that selectmen adopt the language from the wind energy moratorium ordinance that was approved in 2009 and expired in 2010.
The board voted to schedule a public hearing and special town meeting on Thursday Aug. 7, to discuss adopting a new 180-day moratorium.
Town Manger Carlo Puiia said Monday that he “got a chance to talk with Kristen Collins, the attorney who has been working on the ordinance for us.
“She expressed a concern that there was already an ordinance in place,” Puiia said. “From what I can see, there was a vote on an ordinance in November of 2012. That tells me that there is currently an ordinance in place. If that ordinance had been rescinded by a vote, then that would tell me there is not an ordinance.”
Puiia said the question on the Nov. 6, 2012 warrant asked residents, “Shall an ordinance entitled ‘Wind Energy Ordinance for town of Dixfield’ be enacted?”
“That question was approved at the Nov. 6 vote,” Puiia said. “I know right now, there’s some concern about whether the ordinance was properly addressed within the question, or if the warrant was even legal, since some of the selectmen did not sign it. I’m still getting legal opinions and looking through the minutes of past meetings, but it looks as though the people did approve an ordinance.
“It was said to me that you can’t have a moratorium in place if there’s an ordinance, but that’s not true,” Puiia said. “What Kristen Collins told me is that if there are deficiencies in an ordinance, or if there is an area where you’re not protected, then you can have a moratorium that addresses the areas in the ordinance where you’re not protected.”
Puiia said before the town holds a public hearing or a vote on a revised moratorium, “Kristen Collins said she would want to review it so that it wouldn’t conflict in any way with the ordinance that is currently being revised.
“She recommended to us that we slow the process down,” Puiia said. “The earliest that she would be able to meet with us and discuss the moratorium is late August, but we’ve already set a date for Aug. 7. It’s a small predicament, but it can be fixed.”
Daley reiterated that he wanted Puiia to look into the legality of the Nov. 6 warrant, since he and Selectman Scott Belskis did not sign it before it was placed before the voters.
Puiia said he thinks the moratorium process should be postponed until Collins can ensure that it doesn’t interfere with the town’s wind energy ordinance.
He later added that he would continue to look into the minutes of previous meetings and contact the Maine Municipal Association to determine whether or not the Nov. 6 vote to approve the wind energy ordinance was legal.
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