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Wind moratorium extended
RUMFORD -- On the day a six-month moratorium on wind development projects, selectmen voted by 4-1 Thursday to extend the moratorum for another 60 days.
Selectmen have enacted and repeatedly extended moratoriums for two years to enable creation of a wind energy facility ordinance.
"The new board will have five weeks to figure it out," noted Town Manager Carlo Puiia, who had recommended the 60-day extension.
Outgoing Selectman Mark Belanger, who was the dissenter, had asked during the public hearing held earlier that if the proposed wind ordinance passes on June 14, why would the wind moratorium remain in effect?
Puiia responded that state law specifies that a moratorium must specify the number of days that it's effective.
Belanger expanded his point, saying that it doesn't seem fair because a company with a proposed project would have to wait an additional 30 days. "It would be mid-summer by time they got a permit."
Resident Jon Starr urged that people "be patient and we'll get this right."
Also held Thursday was a public hearing on the proposed wind ordinance. Selectmen expresse disappointment at the small turnout, but most of those present revealed possible holes that a developer might take advantage of in the document.
Chairman Brad Adley reiterated the history of wind ordinance writing to the new proposal, which was expedited from Selectman Jeff Sterling's rewrite last month of the first ordinance to place it on the town meeting warrant.
Sterling, in a prepared statement, said that once he got into the ordinance, “it became clear that there was no tweaking; there was going to be major revisions that would eliminate many layers of protections that were put in place.”
He said those protections caused voters to defeat the first proposed ordinance.
Two selectmen, Greg Buccina and Jeremy Volkernick, who voted against the ordinance, urged residents to defeat the ordinance and force the board to spend more time creating a better document.
Volkernick said the board didn't have the time it needed to craft a balanced ordinance, urged people to read the document and said he didn't approve of it.
Buccina said “I think we as a board fell down with this ordinance. We need to do this over.
Selectman Mark Belanger called the document a “reasonable ordinance with good protections.”
Businessman Dan Richard said “If it puts one new job in this town, as a small business owner, I'm for it. There's not a lot of business going on here. We need to find a happy medium. You're not going to make everyone happy."
Resident Len Greaney sought the board's rationale in changing six items from the defeated ordinance,including
decommissioning, sound and safety setbacks, and sound levels. He also noted the importance for voters to have financial information to see how they will benefit.
He also did not believe that residents would take the time to view the proposed ordinance, which is list on the town's website. However, Adley, Sterling and Belanger all believe that people will look at this.
Resident Peter Buotte told the board that it took out the definition of “short duration repetitive sound,” leaving that up to interpretation by lawyers.
To which Sterling said, “We aren't scientists. We took what was defeated and made it less restrictive.”
Resident Jon Starr said, "Saying 'I'm not a scientist' is not going to cut it. If you're not an expert, you need to consult an expert. you have to be able to answer the hard questions."
Resident Rita Aromaa worried about the allowed increased sound levels and who she should complain to should that be a problem.
“It's evident that every word you change can have a significant impact,” said businessman Roger Arsenault, adding, "I think you've made some headway, but I don't think it's ready."
Resident Jim Thibodeau agreed. He asked the board why it removed language on third-party arbitration and the requirement that wind developers get operational licenses.
“This is a Swiss-cheese ordinance and I highly recommend that the town vote this down and have the board or a committee work on it again,” he said, adding, "We did this to make this fair to wind. But what did you do to make this fair to the people of Rumford?"
Should voters at town meeting on June 14 not approve the second proposed ordinance, the board will likely extend the moratorium until an ordinance is approved.
A majority defeated the first proposed ordinance on Nov. 2, 2010.