Monday, March 10, 2008

Wind farm project sparks controversy

Lewiston Sun Journal
March 10, 2008

By Terry Karkos

BYRON - Controversy over a proposed wind power project in Byron and Roxbury continues to grow the closer Byron gets to its town meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday.

An article in the warrant seeks to amend Byron's building ordinance to allow 450-foot-tall wind towers and turbines to be placed along a ridge between Old Turk Mountain and Record Hill.

Another change states that a building permit for wind turbines or associated structures would expire after four years and require application for an extension.

Those opposing the project are members of the grassroots Save Our Towns Coalition, a group of Byron and Roxbury residents concerned about visual and noise impacts that they say wind power facilities would have on their towns.

They formed a few weeks ago after a majority of Roxbury town meeting voters on March 3 OK'd creation of a new mountain zone that will allow wind power development at or above an elevation of 1,500 feet.

On the other side, it's Independence Wind LLC principals Angus King, Maine's former governor, and Rob Gardiner, a former director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. He also once headed Maine Public Broadcasting Corp.

Last summer, Brunswick-based Independence Wind, a Maine company formed to create large-scale wind projects in Maine and elsewhere in New England, partnered with area landowner Bayroot LLC and its land manager, Wagner Forest Management of Lyme, N.H.

They formed a company called Record Hill Wind LLC, which wants to develop wind power on a portion of Bayroot's lands in Byron and Roxbury.

They have held several public meetings in both towns to gauge and resolve concerns. They've also lobbied residents in both towns about why they should approve the ordinance changes.

Some information regarding noise levels in those letters and on Record Hill's Web site is being questioned publicly by coalition members Linda Kuras and Sarah Nedeau and others.

Kuras and Nedeau base their concerns on the Mars Hill wind power project and statements made by Mars Hill resident Wendy Todd regarding the distance that turbine noise can be heard.

Kuras, who lives on the western shore of Roxbury Pond in Roxbury, will see more of the towers than Nedeau, who lives on the other side of Record Hill on Route 17 in Byron.

Aside from visual impact, Kuras also worries about flickering shadows that will be produced by the sun rising behind the wind towers. Both claim they and others will hear noise from the turbines; King and Gardiner say otherwise.

To alleviate similar concerns for Garland Pond residents in Byron, King and Gardiner will forgo building four towers on Old Turk Mountain. They say they can also stop turbines during sunrise, if flicker problems exist.

Both sides also said they will present their information to Byron voters and hope for the best.

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