DIXFIELD – The Board of Selectmen voted 3-2 Monday evening to place an amended wind energy facility ordinance before voters June 14.
The ordinance was written after Patriot Renewables of Quincy, Mass., approached town officials in October 2010 about constructing wind turbines on Colonel Holman Mountain ridge. It passed in November 2012, but zoning restrictions in it were unenforceable.
In November 2014, an amended version 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 for the ordinance, which included a limit of 42 decibels at night and 55 decibels during the day.
In January, the board unanimously voted to include the DEP sound levels in the ordinance, but not 27 pages of DEP standards that Board of Selectmen Chairman Hart Daley said were not applicable to the town.
However, the vote to finalize the wind ordinance draft was tabled after petitioners voiced their displeasure with the inclusion of language referring to low-frequency sound measurement in the most recent draft.
Low-frequency sound measurement is not included in the Maine DEP’s sound standards, but is included in wind ordinances of other Maine towns.
Town Manager Carlo Puiia said a motion was initially made to accept a draft of the wind ordinance that contained the Maine DEP’s sound standards, but failed by a 3-2 vote.
Daley and Selectmen Dana Whittemore and Norman Mitchell voted against accepting the first motion, while Selectmen Mac Gill and Eugene Skibitsky voted in favor of it.
“Both Mac and Gene said that they were in favor of accepting the motion because they were meeting the intent of the petitioners,” Puiia said. “There was some disagreement on what the intent of the petition was really asking. Three of the board members contended that the language related to low-frequency sound measurement should remain in the ordinance.”
A second motion was made to pass the ordinance draft that was defeated in June 2015, with amended sound limits of 42 decibels at night and 55 decibels during the day.
“Some of the citizens were expressing dissatisfaction with that motion, stating that the low-frequency sound measurement language is prohibitive and will prevent wind power from coming to Dixfield,” Puiia said. “However, a majority of the board referred to sound easements in other towns that refer to low-frequency sound standards.”
The board voted 3-2 to approve the second motion. Daley, Whittemore, and Mitchell voted in favor, while Gill and Skibitsky were opposed.
In other business, Puiia said auditor Ron Smith told selectmen that the Sewer Department would have to increase its revenue by raising rates.
“The recommendation to raise the town’s sewer rates came up in 2012,” Puiia said. “However, the board was reluctant at the time to increase the amount and decided to wait. As time went on, Smith told the board that the rates should be increased between 20 and 25 percent.
“The current annual sewer rate is $260,” Puiia said. “An increase of 20 to 25 percent would be about $320. The bills go out quarterly, so it would be about $80 a quarter.”
Puiia said there is “no determined amount yet,” and that the auditor is returning to the board’s first meeting in May for a public hearing, where residents will have the opportunity to comment.
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