Friday, February 02, 2007

Wind farm road plan criticized at meeting

Maine Today
February 2, 2007


FREEDOM -- The company that hopes to erect three wind turbines on Beaver Ridge worked on the cheap when it submitted its application to the Planning Board, according to attorney Ed Bearor.

"It's a mystery to me how a $10-$12 million project can be on such a skinflint budget when it comes to getting approval," said Bearor, who represents Steve Bennett and other property abutters opposed to the project, during Thursday's appeals board meeting.

The board, which is considering overturning the Planning Board's December decision to approve the project, was still meeting as of 8:30 p.m.

Portland-based Competitive Energy Services hopes to build the towers on property owned by Ron and Susan Price. Each turbine would rise nearly 400 feet at its tallest point.

Bennett argued in his letter of appeal that the planning board made its decision without sufficient evidence that the project would meet the town's standards in several areas, including noise and fire suppression.

Bearor spent part of Thursday's meeting hammering the planning board's decision to waive a storm water management plan required by the ordinance. The planning board required Competitive Energy to rebuild the road leading into the site according to "best management practices," but Bearor argued such a condition was insufficient.

"If there are provisions for storm water run off, it must be an issue," Bearor said. "There should be a storm water management plan."

The town discontinued maintenance on the road that will be used to deliver the turbines to Beaver Ridge in 1975. Since then the road has deteriorated to a point that only a four-wheel-drive vehicle can pass during certain times of the year, Bearor said. The road, which is currently about 12 feet across, would need to be widened to 16 feet.

"It's is not a road, by any stretch of the imagination, that will accommodate (the proposed use)," Bearor said.

Code enforcement officer Jay Guber said the state has set the standards for best management practices. Competitive Energy's building permit would be suspended if Guber determined the road's construction did not meet those standards.

"We don't believe you can do better than best management practices," said Richard Silkman of Competitive Energy. "If there's a practice that's better than best, we'll adhere to it."

Bearor, however, argued that Competitive Energy could not legally make the substantial improvement required for the road to handle the heavy turbine delivery because the town has discontinued maintenance.

Price, who has plowed the road in the winter and used it to access his fields, said he asked state officials what improvements he could make to make the road passable for his farm equipment.

"The response was I can do pretty much anything I want as long as I don't infringe on the property rights," Price said. "That's a public way."

Bearor argued the road must maintain its character. Competitive Energy can not rebuild the road into something it has never been.

"He doesn't have that right," Bearor said. "I hope this investment isn't based on that premise, because it simply isn't there."

The board is scheduled to meet again at 7 p.m. on Feb. 8 in the basement of the Freedom Congregationalist Church.

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