Freedom Planning Board Proceeding with Reintroduction of Wind Ordinance

The Planning Board meeting started out with Planning Board member, Bill Pickford, giving a brief introduction about why they were bringing back the Wind Ordinance that was voted out by Freedom residents in 2012.

The members felt that it is in the town’s best interest to have protection from future wind development projects and, more importantly, to have set guidelines in place for the current project on Beaver Ridge. It was brought to our attention that currently all that is needed for Beaver Ridge Wind to attempt to upgrade the current project with larger turbines is a permit. Pickford said the focus of this initial meeting was to help the Planning Board gather information from residents about what we liked or didn’t like about the existing Wind Ordinance, so that adjustment or amendments could be taken into consideration.

They wanted to point out that contrary to Beaver Ridge Wind’s previous opposition that this ordinance doesn’t necessarily limit upgrades or new projects, but would put in place a system of guidelines that the current or any potential companies would need to follow. In essence, it would do what an ordinance is supposed to do and protect the community.

Planning Board member Gunner Wood asked those present if we thought the current set back of 1 mile was far enough? During the initial drafting of the ordinance the thought was to have the set back be at least 1.5 miles. Those present thought that a 1 mile set back was fine and that many town ordinances had adopted this as a standard.

The recently sold Sanford Hill property was mentioned as a possible project site several times. Citizens voiced concern over the potential possibility of the current owner, Dirigo Timberlands, from either leasing or selling the property to an industrial wind company.

Squirrel: I pulled out my notes from the June meeting where Blaine Miller from Dirigo Timberlands took possession of the property and recapped for those present. Dirigo Timberlands sometimes works with investors to purchase, harvest, and promote tree growth, among other things. Mr. Miller also mentioned that they keep about 80% of the properties they purchase. When Selectman Steve Bennett asked him if they had an investor in mind for the Sandford Hill property, Mr. Miller had said yes.

None of the residents who attended the meeting felt that the current Wind Ordinance needed to be adjusted or amended. They felt that the Planning Board had done a good job in covering all the components needed to protect the town and it’s residents.

A question was brought up about who would determine the sound levels of the current or any proposed projects, if we didn’t have an ordinance in place. They would have to follow state guidelines was the answer. I do believe that the state guidelines for noise is now set at 42dB, but we all know that most sound studies done – instituted by wind companies – are biased in favor of the companies. Wind companies are saying they are complying with state regulations, but those who live near them know this is not true.

At the request of a Freedom resident the Board agreed to contact DEP and acquire information about state regulations to use as a comparison to the purposed Wind Ordinance. It was felt that the Board would better answer any questions that may be asked, if they had this information prior to the next meeting.

A discussion followed about how to proceed with putting the Wind Ordinance before the town for vote. Back in 2012 it was given to the Selectmen who put it on the town warrant for a ballot vote. Selectman Steve Bennett, who was able to attended the second half of the meeting, thought that a town meeting – where everyone could voice concerns and opinions – followed by a town vote was the best option.

The Wind Ordinance portion of the meeting ended with plans for the next. The Planning Board will gather additional information and the discussion of reintroducing the Wind Ordinance will be continued at the next scheduled Planning Board meeting. During this second meeting the Planning Board are in hopes of proceeding with a plan to put it forth to a town vote.

The Beaver Dam would also like to thank the residents who attended. Though the gathering was incredibly small, it was heart warming to see that some residents were willing to take time out of their busy schedule to attend. We would also like to thank the Planning Board for, not only their hard work in putting together the Wind Ordinance initially, but their continued efforts to protect our town and our community.

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