Monday, February 11, 2008

Wind farm neighbors petition for new rules

Morning Sentinel
February 9, 2008

FREEDOM -- An ordinance repealed by voters at a special town meeting last summer would be reinstated if neighbors of an approved wind turbine project get their way.

Jeff Keating, who owns property near the Beaver Ridge site where three wind turbines are to be erected later this year, plans to submit a petition during the Feb. 20 selectmen's meeting asking for a secret vote to reinstate the Commercial Development Review Ordinance voters repealed in June.

"We haven't had an ordinance in town since then and (the planning) board claimed they would put a new ordinance in," Keating said Friday. "It's an attempt to get an ordinance in place that was promised."

Keating presented a petition with 47 signatures -- 30 were required for certification -- during Wednesday's selectmen's meeting, but the board rejected the document because it had been improperly circulated and submitted, said Selectman Ron Price.

"The petition circulated was to reinstate the commercial development review ordinance, but it didn't say which one," said Price, who is leasing the land for the turbines to Competitive Energy. "There was no designation what ordinance that was."

William Livengood, director of legal services for Maine Municipal Association, told selectmen in a letter that a copy of the ordinance to be reinstated should have been attached to the petition as it was circulated and when it was submitted to the town.

"Without the proposal of a specific ordinance it is my opinion that (the) petition is deficient," Livengood said.

The Commercial Development Review Ordinance was developed and adopted in 2006 after Portland-based Competitive Energy Services submitted an application to erect three, 400-foot electricity generating wind turbines.

The planning board initially determined that the project met the requirements of the ordinance, but the board of appeals subsequently determined that the turbines would not meet noise standards and that Competitive Energy had not met requirements for a decommissioning bond.

Residents at a special town meeting in June, which was generated by a petition drive, voted to rescind the ordinance, thus opening the door for Competitive Energy to apply for a permit under the much more lenient building ordinance.

Competitive Energy, which was granted a permit in July, promised to abide by standards in the Commercial Development Review Ordinance.

Keating, however, hopes to ensure that promise is upheld. The petition seeks a vote on reinstating the ordinance retroactively to the June town meeting.

"They couldn't take the building permit away, but they would have to abide by the ordinance," Keating said.

Price, who owns the Beaver Ridge property where the turbines would be built, has asked Maine Municipal Association for an opinion on whether the ordinance can be reinstated and, if so, how it would affect the Competitive Energy's permit.

"They have not given me a legal opinion about that," he said.

The planning board is focusing on developing a comprehensive plan, which is needed to guide ordinances, while simultaneously developing a new commercial development review ordinance, Price said.

"I have met with the planning board," Price said. "They felt the most important thing facing this town is a comprehensive plan."

Keating, however, believes the commercial review ordinance needs to be priority.

Craig Crosby -- 487-3288

ccrosby@centralmaine.com

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