DIXFIELD – The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Monday evening to present an amended Wind Energy Facility Ordinance to voters in June. It will include the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s decibel limits.
The board also voted to schedule a public hearing for 6 p.m. Thursday, March 3 for residents’ opinions on the latest amendment.
The ordinance was written after Patriot Renewables LLC of Quincy, Mass., approached town officials in October 2010 about constructing 13 turbines on leased land on Colonel Holman Ridge.
The town passed an ordinance in November 2012, but it contained zoning restrictions that were unenforceable. In November 2014, a revised ordinance was rejected. In June 2015, the Planning Board’s original draft was also rejected.
In August 2015, selectmen accepted a citizens’ petition to adopt the sound standards of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection – including a limit of 42 decibels at night and 55 decibels during the day – for the ordinance.
Town Manager Carlo Puiia pointed out to the board that there were 27 pages of DEP sound standards that would need to be included in Dixfield’s ordinance.
Belfast lawyer Kristin Collins was tasked with drafting the amendments.
However, during Monday’s meeting, Chairman Hart Daley said he believed the purpose of the petition “truly was just to change the decibel levels on the Planning Board’s draft from 35 in the evening and 42 during the day to the state DEP levels, which is 42 in the evening, and 55 during the day.”
“I don’t believe the purpose of the petition was to incorporate 27 pages of DEP standards,” he said. When Tom Carroll, the project coordinator for Patriot Renewables, visited Dixfield in 2015, he mentioned that the sound level limits in the Planning Board’s draft that was defeated in June 2015 would prohibit wind development in Dixfield.
“If you talk to Tom, and talk to the people who have been coming to our meetings for the last year or so, they’d tell you that the sound limit levels was the sole problem,” Daley said. “My recommendation is that we take the Planning Board’s ordinance draft that was defeated in June and change the decibel levels to the state DEP levels, which is 42 in the evening, and 55 during the day.”
He clarified to those at the meeting that he “still doesn’t believe that the DEP sound levels are safe for our townspeople. However, I do believe that the intent of the petitioners was to change the sound levels, so that’s what I’m going to vote on,” Daley said. “It doesn’t mean I support it, but it’s up to the town to decide on it now.”
The rest of the board agreed with Daley, though Selectman Eugene Skibitsky said he believed the petitioners should have a chance to speak about the change at a public hearing.
“I feel like we’ve heard from the petitioners in the past that the sound limit levels was the major issue they had with the ordinance that was defeated in June,” Daley said.
“I think if we have a public hearing, we can get feedback from people before the final ballot question is done,” Skibitsky said. “Maybe they’ll say that they have no problems with it, or maybe they’ll give us some additional changes to make. I think that the people should have a chance to comment on it.”
In other business, the board voted 3-2 to extend the moratorium on wind power projects for 180 days, giving voters time to act on the latest amended ordinance. It’s the fourth moratorium extension in three years.
Daley, Dana Whittermore and Norman Mitchell voted for the extension; Mac Gill and Skibitsky voted against it.