ORLAND – The town Planning Board is continuing a review of the rules that govern any proposed wind power projects, although board members are still trying to determine the nature of that review
At its April 6 meeting, with Chairman Jack MacBrayne on vacation and Vice Chairman Dexter Johnson leading, board members discussed whether they should simply be studying the town’s wind power ordinance in anticipation of a project application from New Hampshire developer Eolian Renewable Energy, looking for areas to strengthen the existing ordinance or some combination of the two.
Orland voters originally approved that ordinance in 2011. It was adapted over 18 months by the Planning Board from a model set forth by the state, but some board members now feel they don’t understand the ordinance’s ins and outs.
At an earlier meeting, they agreed to commence a review of the ordinance. At the same time, several board members have suggested the review would give them a chance to look for changes that would improve the current rules, which could then be proposed to the selectmen.
Last month, the selectmen warned the Planning Board that they aren’t obligated to bring any proposed changes to local voters. They also advised the board to honor any rules in the current ordinance if a wind power application arrives.
On April 6, the four assembled board members – two were absent – decided to use their May 4 meeting to clarify whether their goal is to review or revise the rules.
“I don’t know if we know what we’re doing, honestly. I don’t know if we’re just reviewing it to prepare ourselves for an application or if we want to take a really strong look at it and recommend the revisions,” said Planning Board member Brenda Leavitt. “If we’re truly reviewing this with the intent to make revisions, I just think we need to be up front about it.”
When and if an application will arrive for Eolian’s planned project, which would consist of three turbines in North Orland, isn’t clear. Reached Monday, the company’s Orland project manager, Travis Bullard, declined to comment on the status of its tentative application.
A citizens group calling itself the Friends of Dodge Hill has opposed the town’s current wind ordinance on the grounds that it won’t protect, among other things, home values or the scenic beauty in mountainous North Orland.
A member of that group, Shawn Mercer, attended the April 6 meeting and informed the board that he knew of many residents who support looking for areas to strengthen the ordinance.
At a special Planning Board meeting March 16, Johnson, the board’s vice chairman, mentioned several changes he thought could improve the Orland wind regulations. Those included terms forcing wind developers to pay any promised tax valuation and cover the property values of those living near proposed turbines.
Johnson also used the April 6 meeting to apologize for remarks he made to Selectman Ed Rankin at the March 16 meeting.
At the time, he argued the selectmen’s letter about the validity of any wind ordinance changes had been patronizing. He also interrupted MacBrayne, who was asking Rankin to explain the selectmen’s position.
“It was not anything befitting a municipal official,” Johnson said.
Although he’s a North Orland resident, Johnson has reiterated he’s not approaching the ordinance review with any bias.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding