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Milton to stay ‘expedited’; some worry region could become wind focus

The Maine Land Use Planning Commission has voted 5-2 to keep Milton Township in the “expedited” area for wind development.

The decision means any applications for wind projects can bypass a rezoning step with the Land Use Planning Commission, but would still be reviewed by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Some local residents have opposed the expedited designation, arguing they should have more opportunity for input during the review process. Concerns about impact on scenic views, recreation and wildlife were voiced.

A wind power company, EverPower Maine LLC, has put up a meteorological test tower in the area of Bryant and Chamberlain mountains in Milton to gather information for a potential 9- to 12-tower, 40-megawatt project. Parts of Woodstock, Greenwood and Bethel are near the location.

Bob Everett of Bethel is an LUPC commissioner. He voted in opposition to keeping Milton in the expedited area, citing concerns on the potential impact of wind turbines on a nearby bat shelter, and the ability of the current transmission system to handle added power generation.

Other commissioners have said the location of Milton near existing power transmission lines weighed in favor of allowing a project; that there are other, more significant scenic recreational resources surrounding Milton, such as in Bethel and Newry; and that relatively few people would be impacted.

Ed Rosenberg of Woodstock, a neighbor of the potential project site, said he thought Milton had become a “sacrificial lamb” for wind development. The state’s pursuit of development goals for 2030 is “putting all the pressure on Western Maine,” for further development, he said, because of the proximity of transmission lines.

Another meteorological test tower was recently approved by the Greenwood Planning Board for Long Mountain, raising concerns among some residents there.

LUPC Chief Planner Stacie Beyer said the final action of the commission on Milton may be appealed to Superior Court within 40 days from the date of the decision, by any aggrieved person.

Harry Benson, director of development for EverPower, was asked to comment on the Milton LUPC decision.

“EverPower Maine LLC is very happy about the LUPC decision,” he said. “We feel it is the right decision. Keep in mind, this decision allows us to continue to develop the site through the normal DEP process. This is a robust process that takes at least three years: two years of studies and a one-year permitting process that includes input from local towns and citizens.

“Next year we plan on meeting with the local communities to educate them on the benefits of the project and listen to any concerns,” he said.