Owner says collapse of meteorological tower at site of proposed Clifton wind farm an act of vandalism
CLIFTON, Maine – Paul Fuller of Bangor and his business partner Mike Smith went to Pisgah Mountain on Sunday to cut down Christmas trees to decorate their homes for the holidays and discovered a meteorological tower on the hilltop Fuller owns had collapsed.
“The nuts and bolts from one [support] cable had been removed on one side and dropped it,” Fuller said Monday, after filing a report with Maine State Police Trooper Tucker Bonnevie.
“It’s a $30,000 piece of equipment that is destroyed,” said Fuller, who believes the slender 196-foot tall metal structure was downed as an act of vandalism.
Bonnevie said Tuesday that the tower had fallen, but “there’s no evidence at this time that any crime was committed.”
“We don’t know for sure that it’s vandalism,” Bonnevie said. “We don’t know if [the bolts] just gave way or somebody actually loosened them.”
Just one of around a dozen wires securing the tower came down, the trooper said.
Fuller and his wife in 2009 purchased 270 acres on Pisgah Mountain, which is located just south of Rebel Hill Road, and shortly thereafter approached the Clifton Planning Board about placing the meteorological tower on the hilltop to collect data about wind currents.
Fuller said the tower’s data demonstrated that there is plenty of wind to operate a wind farm, and in 2010 he submitted a five-turbine plan with the town.
The $25 million wind farm project was originally permitted in Oct. 2011, but local farmers Peter and Julie Beckford appealed the project’s permit and in December 2013 a Superior Court judge said the land use code was not followed.
The Pisgah Mountain developers filed an appeal in January to the state’s highest court to overturn the judge’s decision.
“We’re still waiting for the decision,” Fuller said Monday.
In the meantime, local planners have changed the wind farm ordinance by removing and adding items mentioned as hurdles in the Superior Court business and consumer judge’s decision.
“This doesn’t stop us in any way,” Fuller said. “It’s just frustrating because somebody [resorted] to vandalism.”
“There were not prints anywhere near the site or around it,” said Bonnevie.
The property is not gated and does not have security cameras, and “he lets anybody and everybody hunt there,” the trooper said of Fuller, adding he understands the proposed wind tower project is a controversial issue in town.
“At this point there is no evidence, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t vandalism or criminal mischief,” Bonnevie said.
“It’s not an active investigation, but the investigation is ongoing,” the trooper said later. “I’m still asking around town.”
BDN writer Ryan McLaughlin contributed to this report.
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