By A Show of Hands . . . Finally A Democratic Approach!
The Town of Freedom held a special town meeting and hearing on two proposed articles on November 17th at the town election hall.
The first article up for discussion and vote was a proposal by the Board of Selectmen to build a salt/sand storage structure. This article passed.
The second article up for discussion and vote was a proposal by the Planning Board to enact a Wind Ordinance for the Town of Freedom.
Planning Board member Bill Pickford started out the hearing by briefly recapping the proposed wind ordinance and then opened the floor for discussion. The Planning Board answered several questions about the proposed wind ordinance including:
- A question regarding the decommissioning funds (pg. 31. 23.4.2).
- A question about how small, personal windmills being erected within town limits would be affected.
- A question about why this ordinance was being brought before the town again when it had already been voted out in 2012.
- A question about the set back limits within the ordinance.
One resident commented on the fact that during the drafting of Freedom’s current Comprehensive Plan there was great effort to avoid the mention of industrial wind turbines. He voiced his concern over the fact that a separate ordinance was being proposed specifically for industrial wind turbines. He also said that bringing it back before the town was extremely disruptive and felt that past controversy shouldn’t be stirred up again.
The Planning Board’s response was that they had several discussions with residents about what protection the town had from the current wind turbine company and what could be done to further protect the town from future wind developers. They felt the proposed ordinance was a viable solution. It would not prohibit industrial wind companies from erecting more turbines in Freedom – if guidelines were followed – but would offer protection for all of Freedom residents.
Another resident brought up the fact that this type of voting system (special town meeting followed by a vote) was flawed. She said that there were many residents who worked or had children attending school that couldn’t make it and she felt that it was an unfair way to put forth an ordinance for vote that affected the whole town.
Squirrel: I held my tongue after this was brought up as I probably would have gotten into trouble. My husband and I work full time (and then some) and have children in school. We were given plenty of advanced notice about this meeting and even took time out of our busy schedules to attend several prior meetings (Planning Board and Selectmen) about this subject. I feel that if this proposed ordinance, and the venue used to vote, was such a great issue then more than 45 people would have attended.
Planning Board member Bill Pickford responded to this comment by telling those present that it was the Board of Selectmen who had determined the venue of voting for the two current proposals, not the Planning Board.
Selectman Steve Bennett then spoke up. He stated that prior to the whole wind industry controversy Freedom had always voted by a show of hands at town meetings. He reminded us that this type of democratic voting is still used at the annual town meetings on major issues involving the town. Bennett also pointed out that – in fairness to ALL town residents – voters should be aware of the topic they are voting on and hear discussions from all sides in order to make an informed decision.
Another squirrel: When the original Freedom Town Ordinance was was voted out I remember standing outside the town office and watching some of the residents who entered to vote. I noticed quite a few newly turned 18 voters – all of which I never saw at any of the prior meetings – suddenly interested in voting. I wondered then how much they knew of what they were voting on or if they were just there to provide an additional vote for their parents.
After a few more back and forth discussions we were ready to vote.
And a motion was requested, and seconded, to table the vote for the proposed Wind Ordinance and have it put before the town as a referendum vote. By a show of hands this motion was vetoed by a land slide.
A motion was requested, and seconded, to vote to enact the proposed Wind Ordinance for the Town of Freedom by a show of hands. All but a few people present raised their hands.
The town of Freedom joined the ranks of their neighboring towns and protected themselves from some of the shiftiness shown by industrial wind companies.
The families involved in The Beaver Dam would like to thank all those present who attended the meeting. We appreciate the efforts of the Planning Board and the Board of Selectmen who enabled us this opportunity to take back some of our rights as residents. We understand that this ordinance is only a deterrent – not a guarantee – that more industrial wind turbines won’t be erected within our town, but at least now we have a fighting chance.