WOODSTOCK – Representatives of a Pennsylvania wind company met with selectmen and residents Monday evening to discuss wind energy development efforts in neighboring Milton Township.
EverPower Wind Holdings of Pittsburgh has been working on the project for over two years. Last year, it received approval from the Maine Land Use Planning Commission to erect a 197-foot meteorological test tower on a 350-acre parcel to collect wind data.
According to a resident on Bryant Mountain in Milton, seeing wind turbines when he looks across to Chamberlain Mountain is going to be an ugly sight.
EverPower development director Harry Benson said nine to 12 turbines might be erected, although an exact number has not been decided.
Chamberlain Mountain is on the Milton-Woodstock line.
The commission, which has jurisdiction over unorganized territories, determined that the permitting process could be “expedited” for Milton Township.
However, 17 Milton Township residents submitted a petition to the commission on Jan. 8 asking that the township be removed from the expedited commercial wind project application process.
Selectmen for Woodstock and Peru wrote letters of support to remove Milton Township from the expedited process.
On Monday evening, Benson, attorney Juliet Brown and MaineStreet Solutions employee Sarah Vanderwood answered residents’ questions about the expedited process.
One resident asked Benson if he could give “two or three examples of benefits that residents of Bryant Pond (village) might see” from a wind farm in Milton Township.
Before the representatives spoke, Town Manager Vern Maxfield clarified there would be “no benefit to Bryant Pond or Woodstock, because the project isn’t located there.”
The resident asked how Milton Township residents would benefit from the project.
“EverPower would develop a tangible benefit package for the community, which is driven by discussions with the community and what is best for them,” Brown said. “It could be a land-resource fund established, or it could be a straightforward cash contribution given to the town.”
She said the town would receive, at a minimum, $4,000 per turbine per year for the life of the project, and the money granted is “often more, depending on the discussions.”
“Also,” she said, “there are often economic benefits to the surrounding towns. There are payments to gas stations, stores and motels. There’s a pretty significant indirect benefit to the uninvolved surrounding communities.”
Benson told residents that with unorganized territories the Land Use Planning Commission “taxes what they placed there.”
“Other projects in other Maine towns have gone to the county and worked to negotiate a (tax increment financing) district,” Benson said. “Under that scenario, what happens is that money is directed locally. That’s what we’re trying to get at: figuring out what’s going to stay local, and what revenue will happen that way.”
Benson said, “It’s presumptuous of us to think that’s what the county will do, because we’re so early in the project.”
“We met with the county recently, and when we mentioned the idea to them, they seemed to find it appealing, because it would bring a lot of the revenue locally,” Benson said.
Resident Marcel Polak said that when Patriot Renewables LLC of Quincy, Massachusetts approached Woodstock about building wind turbines in town, “transparency was very key.”
“They came to us way before they started putting up anything,” Polak said. “They were trying to establish a sense of trust. Nine months ago, you put up a (meteorological) tower, and there was no meeting with the town beforehand to explain what was going on. That sense of trust has been breached, and it’s much more difficult moving forward.”
“Unfortunately, it’s not a great way to start,” he added.
“Agreed, and I apologize it didn’t happen earlier than now,” Benson said. “We’ve started speaking to people within the communities now, showing them photo-simulations of what the turbines will look like when they’re put up.”
Brown said the word “expedited” is a “bit of a misnomer.” There is “a very robust process that EverPower has to go through before they begin to move forward with building the wind project,” including wind studies, wildlife surveys, and specific Maine Department of Environment Protection standards that “need to be met.”
The Maine Land Use Planning Commission will hold a public hearing at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10, at the Bethel Inn to discuss the Milton Township petition.
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