Friday, August 15, 2008

Hearing set on Roxbury zoning change

Sun Journal

By Terry Karkos , Staff Writer
Friday, August 15, 2008

ROXBURY - At Thursday night's meeting, planners discussed how to conduct next week's public hearing on a proposed zoning change to allow wind power facilities to be built on the town's hillsides.

That hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21, in the town office.

The proposal would create a mountain zone district, which would include all areas of the mountain ridge comprising portions of Record Hill, Flathead Mountain, Mine Notch, Partridge Peak and North and South Twin mountains at or above an elevation of 1,500 feet. The district would be restricted to wind energy facilities.

At town meeting in March, a majority vote OK'd incorporating that zoning change and accompanying new language into Roxbury's 1976 land-use ordinance. However, because legal and procedural issues were not followed prior to the vote, selectmen agreed to revisit the proposed change to avoid being taken to court by the group Concerned Citizens to Save Roxbury and losing.

The group pressured selectmen for the second chance while seeking more information from proponents and opponents of wind power facilities.

They did this through a petition that created an ordinance placing a 180-day moratorium on wind power development. Approved by majority vote on June 17, the moratorium, which is retroactive to the March 3 town meeting and continues to Sept. 3, prevents planners from issuing building permits in the new zone.

One of two companies studying the area for wind towers, and Concerned Citizens, have each held informational meetings.

At Thursday night's meeting, planners Barry Bunten, Mark Henry and Randy Orr argued that no one's talking about the actual zoning change that's up for discussion, just why they don't want wind towers.

"We need to put something in that we're looking at any alternative energy project, but we don't want to see a power plant on top of the mountain," said Bunten, the board's chairman and a wind-power project proponent.

The two companies are Brunswick-based Independence Wind LLC and Massachusetts-based UPC Wind, which recently changed its name to First Wind.

UPC Wind/First Wind built and operates the Mars Hill wind power project and is constructing another facility, Stetson Wind, in Danforth.

Independence Wind partnered with area landowner Bayroot LLC and its land manager, Wagner Forest Management in Lyme, N.H., to form Record Hill Wind LLC, which wants to develop wind power on a portion of Bayroot's lands in Roxbury.

First Wind has been content to wait and see what happens with Record Hill Wind while conducting studies on Roxbury and Rumford mountainsides.

Bunten argued that planners need to correct misinformation floating around town regarding wind power and turbines.

Only Roxbury residents will be allowed to vote at the upcoming special town meeting, but residents and nonresidents can speak at the Aug. 21 hearing. Each person may only get five minutes to talk to prevent filibustering.

Planners also intend to have a moderator conduct the hearing, "so it doesn't turn into a circus," Henry added.

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