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Wind developer to Dixfield: Ordinance prohibits project

DIXFIELD – A representative of a Massachusetts wind power developer told selectmen it would not be feasible to build a wind farm in town if the Wind Energy Facility Ordinance on the June 9 ballot is adopted.

Tom Carroll, project coordinator for Patriot Renewables LLC of Quincy, Mass., said at the April 13 selectmen meeting that the ordinance’s 35 decibel nighttime limit would likely prohibit a wind farm in Dixfield.

When the ordinance had a nighttime decibel level of 42, he said, a sound easement had to be negotiated with one property owner.

“At 35 decibels, every single house on the Common Road falls into that limit, which means I now have to negotiate a sound easement with every homeowner on that road,” Carroll said. “That is as close to impossible as you can get. It just wouldn’t make a project feasible. Realistically, I can’t see all of the people on the Common Road entering into an agreement.”

Patriot Renewables LLC of Quincy, Mass., approached Dixfield officials three years ago about constructing wind turbines on the Colonel Holman Mountain ridge.

The town’s original ordinance passed in November 2012; a revised ordinance was rejected in November 2014 by a vote of 553-567. In February, selectmen voted to put the original ordinance on the June 9 ballot.

“Keep in mind that we’re still very early in the development stage,” Carroll said. “Back when we started looking at this project, Carthage, Canton and Dixfield were all equal in development stages. Now, the Carthage project is being built, the permits have been filed for the Canton project, but we haven’t moved forward with Dixfield. It’s still early.”

Carroll told the board, “I think it’s only fair that people understand before going to the polls that if they voted for this ordinance, they would be prohibiting any wind farm from coming to Dixfield.”

“Are you speaking for all of them?” Selectman Dana Whittemore asked. “Are you saying no wind farm would come to Dixfield?”

“There may be that one guy who wants to come in and do a project with those restrictions, but I’ll only speak for us: At 35 decibels, it’s not feasible to do,” Carroll said.

“We’ve sat back over the past year and a half,” he said. “We’ve done what we said we were going to do, which is give the people of Dixfield the time to make their own decision, but at the same time, I’ve noticed the environment change in terms of how the town views wind power. By the town, I mean the Board of Selectmen.

“We still reserve the right to develop a project, but until we notice a change in attitude toward wind power by the board, we’re not going to develop in Dixfield,” Carroll said.

“Are you saying you wouldn’t develop here because of the selectmen sitting on the board right now?” resident Dan McKay asked.

“It’s not the people,” Carroll said. “It’s the attitude. I’ve worked with boards that are dead set against wind development and later came to change their minds. We take pride in being able to work with the select boards in the towns we work in. We don’t feel that would be possible here.”

Speaking for the company, Carroll said, “As developers, we feel that the deck is completely stacked against us. I have no doubt in my mind that until opponents of wind power get what they want, this conversation will never come to an end.”

Resident Susan Holmes asked selectmen if residents could file a petition to amend the decibel level from 35 to 42, if the ordinance passes June 9.

Scott Belskis told her, “If you put a petition forward and get the correct number of signatures, the board has to accept it. Anybody can petition to change it, even if you’re only petitioning to change that one section. It will be like voting in a new ordinance, even though it’s one part of the ordinance that’s being amended.”

Resident Peter Holman asked the board who would be responsible for accepting the petition.

“The board,” Daley said. “If a petition is brought forward, and it’s a legal petition, I will vote to accept it.”

Town Manager Carlo Puiia said, “You could submit the petition, and then it would be the responsibility of the town to get a complete document of that sound standard in it.”