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Wind moratorium extended 180 days
Wind moratorum extended 180 days
by Bruce Farrin
RUMFORD -- Selectmen voted 4-1 to extend the moratorium on wind development another 180 days.
That decision was made at Thursday's regular meeting, following a 30-minute public hearing on the issue.
The current six-month moratorium ends Nov. 27. It was enacted to give town officials time to study wind farm issues and to draft an ordinance to regulate such development. That ordinance, which was widely believed to ban wind farm projects, was defeated on Nov. 2 by a vote of 1,339 to 1,048.
Some 50 citizens attended the public hearing, which began with each selectmen voicing their opinion regarding extending the moratorium.
Selectman Jeff Sterling said, "It seems like the sound issues that were brought up by the Wind Power Advisory Committee, depending upon what you read or what you listen to, have legitimacy. What I thought would take a week or maybe two weeks or a month to tweet may not be so. We may have to really listen to a whole bunch of opinions to get a second one in a form that will be passed by the voters."
"But I don't think this can go on forever. And I don't believe that if we come up with a different and it doesn't pass, that we can do it again and again until whatever the end would be."
"I also don't think we're going to want to rush through it. We're going to have a budget season coming up here soon and if we try to cram to get this thing before budgets, we may not do it right. I really think we have to take our time, just like the Wind Power Advisory Committee," said Sterling.
"The good thing that came out of the election, where you were for or against, was that there were a lot of people who came out and voted. To me, that gave real legitimacy to what the result was, even though there have been claims that voters really didn't know what they were voting on, that they were really voting 'yes' on wind or 'no' on wind," said Sterling.
Selectman Jeremy Volkernick said, "Setting the moratorium for six months will save on taxpayers having to pay for a special election. At the same time, we need to clarify it when voters go to the polls. We need to make it simple for everybody to understand. That was one of the major concerns the taxpayers had. Some knew what they were voting for, others didn't. On the ballot, ask them, 'do you favor this ordinance, yes or no?' Simple."
"I don't want to put the ordinance committee through this again. They did their homework for six to eight months, and I don't want to put them through that again. I want selectmen to take it upon themselves to look at an ordinance. I want the responsiblity to lay with the selectmen," he said.
Selectman Greg Buccina said, "I think we need to extend the moratorium. I think the ordinance we initially drafted and the ordinance that was presented was well written. I think it was protective of our citizens in our community. That's what an ordinance is supposed to do. People felt it was restrictive, okay. But there were a lot of things in that ordinance that really need to be addressed. Things like decommissioning, how things will work out with taxes...a lot of stuff covered in there that need to stay in there."
"I don't think this is a quick fix. I still haven't heard what was so restrictive about this ordinance. I think it behooves us as selectmen to do what is right...I believe firmly that we can have an ordinance in place that will guide and govern these kinds of activities," he said.
Selectman Mark Belanger, who cast the dissenting vote, said, "The people have spoken, not once but twice. The majority of the people are for us exploring wind and I think a moratorium has become a negative on that. I would go with what the people really want and not extend the moratorium, and do what we tried to do before when this all took place."
"I don't believe we're going to be able to use the old one that was written because I think people would still vote that down, even if we tweek it a little bit. There's too much in there to tweek. I think we should start from scratch with this board, have workshops where we discuss this amongst ourselves, bring experts in, use the DEP as our model and going from there," he said.
Board Chairman Brad Adley said, "I look at what's going on around the area, Dixfield, with what Roxbury has done, and I concur with Greg. This ordinance got voted down; I think our job is to protect people to a point. I just don't know if this ordinance that got voted down is going to be boiler plate for us to work on. Whether it is salvagable, I don't know that yet. But I think an ordinance is in order."
"I think everybody knows my feelings when I introduced the Maine State Planning Office one (model ordinance). I wouldn't mind exploring that idea and also the one that got voted down. I'm an advocate for staying with the moratorium for six months. It will give us time to get something right, give us some protection and also not discourage business growth in the area. Find a happy medium that I think the people want," he said.
Sterling asked if the new moratorium would take it until the next June election.
Puiia responded that it would expire about 10 days or so shy of that town meeting vote. "But the board could meet again to vote to extend it to meet that voting deadline."
Supporting the extension were Monique Aniel, Ed Shurtleff, Len Greaney, Jo Elliot and Carolyn Bennett.
Aniel said there are three reasons to do this -- health-related due to sound, economics and law.
Shurleff said banks won't lend money to wind power companies because they aren't viable.
Greaney said more work was needed to define tax breaks and financing.
Elliot said an extension would provide more time to study the issue.
Bennett said she wanted work on an ordinance done at a more understandable level.
Against the extension was Candice Casey, who agreed with Belanger, saying the extension goes against wishes of the voting majority, noting that any ordinance should regulate all development and not just wind power.
Following the selectmen's vote, resident Arthur Boivin said, "On Nov. 2 the voters gave you guys a job and I think they are expecting you guys to do it, and that is not necessarily to extend the moratorium or to come up with a new ordinance. You are looking at over 1,300 people who said no, because they said, 'We want wind development.' That is 1,300 people as opposed to listening to about 50 of them that are sitting here."