No land closures planned
“It’s great for the small town of Greenwood because it shows that corporate America cannot push little towns around as much as they think they can,” Greenwood resident Norm Milliard said.
On Monday Greenwood voters overwhelmingly approved proposed amendments to the commercial wind farm section of a town ordinance, effectively banning such farms through a new tower height restriction.
The vote was 206-41.
Due to the large turnout the meeting started 45 minutes late. But there was little discussion and no questions on the issue were asked, so the secret ballot started quickly.
When the results of the vote were announced, many cheered and applauded, while others hugged each other. For a lot of residents, the passed ordinance was a huge win.
The Calpine Corporation had hoped to build a 13-turbine Long Mountain Wind Farm near the area of Long, Tibbetts and Elwell mountains. In the previous ordinance, tower height limits were not listed. Greenwood’s Ordinance Review Committee suggested limiting heights to 250 feet. Calpine said that the height of the towers had to exceed 500 feet to make the project viable.
The amendments also reduce setbacks from non-participating property lines and lower the maximum decibels of noise produced by the turbines.
Impacts on property values and scenic views were cited by property owners as some of the main issues the wind farm would have created. Other issues included noise complaints and effects on wildlife and human health.
Calpine had said the wind farm would have created average net property tax revenues of more than $423,000 a year, and would provide community payments to the town of around $7,700 per year per turbine. The company had said it would also donate funds to community organizations.
After the meeting ORC member Tyler Bennett said, “I’m very thrilled. Greenwood showed up with a huge show of support.”
Others echoed Bennett.
Ed Rosenberg of Woodstock, who owns property in Greenwood and was active in the effort to get the amendments approved, said, “I hope that this settles it – it’s the will of the people. With the turnout you can see how important it was.”
There are 580 registered voters in Greenwood, according to town officials.
Late letters sent
Shortly before Monday’s Town Meeting the Weyerhaeuser Corp., which is leasing land to Calpine where the turbines would be built, wrote a letter to Greenwood selectmen opposing the amendments, saying they would violate the company’s private property rights.
And in a letter mailed to Greenwood residents last week, the Bethel Area Business Association laid out its reasons for opposing the amendments, under the theme that they would be too restrictive, and that the town would benefit from the added revenue generated by the project.
The letter also said that “passing the proposed amendments could lead to the closure of private lands to the public, like it did in Bethel.”
Last year Bethel voters passed a restrictive commercial wind ordinance, but after large landowner Bob Chadbourne closed down his Bethel land to recreational use, voters approved a less restrictive ordinance.
Chadbourne said Tuesday he does not plan to close any of his land in Greenwood.
Weyerhaeuser was also contacted regarding whether the company would consider closing its Greenwood land to public use.
Said spokesman Chris Fife, “Weyerhaeuser is proud to be a part of the Greenwood community. We do not plan any changes to our sustainable timber management or public use at this time. Our lands offer the opportunity to not only provide sustainable products but clean, renewable energy too, such as wind and solar power.
“While we are disappointed with the recent vote restricting the development of wind energy, we look forward to continuing to work with the Greenwood community and its leaders to maintain sustainable forests, encourage renewable energy and balance community concerns.”
Dennis Doyon of Greenwood, president of the BABA, said he had no comment on Monday’s vote result.
Calpine did not respond by press time for a request for comment on the vote.
Advice was split
Greenwood’s attorney and planning consultant had been split in their review this spring of the proposed amendments.
Regarding the wind tower height limits proposed, Attorney Jim Katsiaficas in a memo said it effectively prohibits a commercial wind project.
He said he was not aware of any Maine court decision on the issue of whether a municipality can explicitly or implicitly prohibit an entire category of otherwise lawful land uses. “I conservatively advise municipalities not to entirely prohibit a lawful use of land townwide, but to reasonably regulate it by addressing the legitimate concerns that are supported by facts,” he said.
But planning consultant John Maloney of AVCOG countered that “Maine municipalities and across the country have limited the size of big box stores that essentially prohibit Wal Marts, limited the height of telecommunication towers, and limit the height of structures and size signs. The amendments do allow for commercial wind energy farms if they comply with standards.”