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Dixfield voters overwhelmingly approve 180-day wind moratorium

DIXFIELD – Residents voted 89-7 Thursday evening to enact a six-month moratorium on wind energy projects, giving selectmen time to finish revising the Wind Energy Facility Ordinance.

The ordinance was approved in 2012 and the revisions began in January 2013.

Patriot Renewables LLC of Quincy, Mass., approached Dixfield officials three years ago 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.

Resident Dan McKay asked selectmen if Patriot Renewables has been renewing its building permits and paying property taxes on the areas they wish to develop.

Town Manager Carlo Puiia said it has been paying taxes and he would check to make sure the company had renewed its building permit.

Resident Brad Dyer asked if a moratorium would stop construction of transmission lines coming through Dixfield.

“I know that right now, Carthage is going to be putting transmission lines up and it’s going to pass through Dixfield,” Dyer said. “They don’t have the lines up yet, but the poles are going up. I didn’t know if a moratorium would stop that.”

Puiia said the moratorium would only affect construction in Dixfield.

McKay asked selectmen Chairman Scott Belskis to explain why voters were presented with a moratorium.

“We’re basically here to see if we’re going to allow people to breathe a little easier while we fine-tune the ordinance,” Belskis said. “Our legal counsel said that the specific wording in certain sections of the ordinance that was voted on in 2012 needed to be changed. The wording that we changed around didn’t change the basic ordinance. We just changed the wording in sections that the legal department had a problem with.

“The moratorium will protect the town and prohibit the wind industry from submitting any permits or beginning any construction before the selectmen have finished revising the wind energy ordinance,” he said. “It provides security to the town with the project that is pending.”

Selectman Hart Daley said the reason for drafting and revising the ordinance is to “protect the financial interests and well-being of the community.

“While revising the wind ordinance, we’ve looked at setbacks to protect people’s property rights, fire prevention and the health and safety of our residents,” Daley said. “We also are trying to protect the financial interests of the town be focusing on decommission.”

Daley said the ordinance will “safeguard the town of Dixfield so we don’t have to invest any money to take down the wind towers and turn the land back to the way it was, if they decide to move on. All of that responsibility will fall to the wind developer.”

“The ordinance and moratorium will give you more local control,” Puiia said. “If you don’t have an ordinance, you’ll fall to the Department of Environmental Protection’s standards for constructing wind facilities.”