Let me start by thanking the selectmen for recognizing the overwhelming importance of the wind power issue for many Orland residents and scheduling a vote on a moratorium. We elect you to represent us by protecting our health, welfare and property while we are busy doing our own jobs and paying our taxes. I have four points I would like the selectmen and Planning Board to consider.
- Support for wind power in this town has dropped drastically.
- If wind power is a good option for Orland, we should not be in such a hurry to accept the first offer that comes along. We should look at companies that have a proven record in the industry.
- The selectmen and planners’ job now is to enact a moratorium and revisit our wind power ordinance. This is clearly the will of the people of this town right now.
- It is time to update the town’s comprehensive plan.
We should look at the entire town in light of future developments including wind, solar, tidal, natural gas and geothermal energy. First, the numbers:
- Of the 34 percent of registered voters in Orland who voted, 49.6 percent voted for the moratorium and 50.4 percent voted against it. Round those numbers and we end up with a tie.
- In spite of the fact that North Orland has a very small percentage of the residences in town, the vote was almost 50/50 to enact the moratorium. This shows a lot of support from Orland residents who will not be directly affected by the physical presence of the wind towers.
- According to statistics published in the newsletter sent by the selectman recently, there has been a major drop in support for wind power in Orland since the first vote in November 2013. At that time 63 percent of residents supported a wind turbine project, while 37 percent opposed it. Now, a mere 14 months later, support for wind projects in this town has plummeted to 50 percent. Second, this offer, and the economic impact it could have:
- We should be the buyers, not the sellers, when it comes to major developments like this one. If wind is a good option for Orland, this will not be the only company interested in us.
- It has recently been documented that this industry has been using political influence on both local and state levels to slide through projects with minimal oversight by, and input from, the local residents who will be most affected.
- This is not a group of altruistic individuals trying to solve climate change. They are business people who are happy to say whatever makes us happy in order to advance their project.
- This proposed wind power project is sited at the very northernmost tip of the town, where it would affect the fewest possible Orland residents. What about people who might move to our town and are looking for a quiet place to live? These types of areas are becoming harder to find and we are close enough for commutes to Bangor, Brewer and Ellsworth.
- Many people come out here to enjoy the beauty and quiet of nature in the Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust’s Wildlands. Many also walk, run, hike, bike and ski the many other snowmobile trails, quiet roads and mountains in this area. There is great potential here for the development of businesses that cater to folks like these.
- What about all our neighbors who would be affected by this development just over those invisible town boundary lines in Bucksport, Dedham and Ellsworth? They have no say in this at all (or do they – could Orland see lawsuits in its future?).
- There is a lot of talk about the income Orland will receive from this project, and how it will offset our property taxes. No other project in the state generates this kind of revenue.
- The flip side of the tax issue is the likely plummet in value of the properties of those close to this proposed project. If properties are devalued, tax revenues will drop for properties now on the tax roles, and future businesses, retirees, farmers and developers of residential properties could go elsewhere. Might this loss balance that projected revenue? Third, actions the selectmen and Planning Board should take:
- The selectman and Planning Board can and should enact a moratorium, since there are clearly many townspeople who have misgivings, not all of whom actually live in North Orland. Even though the votes did not mandate the moratorium, the town can still enact this temporary moratorium to make sure that the next step Orland takes to develop its future is truly the right step.
- Clearly, as people have become educated to the pitfalls of this industry, support has dropped precipitously across town. Statements by the wind developers and lobbyists to the contrary, nobody could, with a straight face, say that this vote represents the will of the community. Fourth, the town’s comprehensive plan:
- Our comprehensive plan is overdue for an overhaul. Much has changed in the 16 years since we enacted our current plan.
- We should take the opportunity to use this issue, which is dividing us, as a good reason to begin work together on an update of our comprehensive plan.
- We need to take the time required to be reflective, thoughtful and informed in order to make good decisions about the course we want to see our town take in the future.
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