Angst with proposed wind ordinance aired at Rumford board meeting

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RUMFORD — Several people attending Thursday night’s special selectmen’s meeting went home unhappy with the board’s decision to expedite its proposed wind energy facility ordinance into June’s annual town meeting warrant.

Several accused selectmen of not fully understanding changes they made to the document, changes the people said would eventually bring harm to Rumford through improperly regulated wind development.

A few accused the board of taking on what they said should have been the Planning Board’s job to draft such an ordinance and not the Board of Selectmen’s task.

Resident and businessman Roger Arsenault asked Town Manager Carlo Puiia to explain the Planning Board’s task during one of the many off-topic forays in the board’s consideration of proposed changes to the wind ordinance.

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“Isn’t it to enforce all ordinances?” Arsenault asked.

Without saying yes or no, Puiia replied by reading the five powers of the Planning Board, most of which are to deal with the comprehensive plan.

Arsenault then said the original selectmen-appointed Wind Power Advisory Committee, which he was on, had Planning Board members participate in the committee’s seven-month-long process to draft an ordinance to regulate wind development.

A majority vote in November defeated that ordinance, which was widely regarded by many as a permanent moratorium on wind development.

The selectmen’s proposal, largely based on that ordinance, reduced it to 26 pages and removed or altered many of its restrictions. The new document will seemingly allow wind power development while tasking the Planning Board with regulating it.

Arsenault accused selectmen of not including the Planning Board in its deliberations to craft its own ordinance, which was modeled from the defeated ordinance and several other wind ordinances.

He urged selectmen to “slow down” and bring planners up to speed on the new proposal which they will be asked to enforce.

Former Rumford Town Manager Len Greaney also questioned selectmen’s ability to craft an ordinance, labeling the process “irresponsible.”

Selectman Mark Belanger interrupted, asking for a point of order that Greaney was off topic.

Greaney replied that he didn’t care if he was off topic, he wanted answers from the board.

None were forthcoming.

Greaney said selectmen are not developers of ordinances. He said the board is responsible for the administration of town business.

He accused the board of “running a very strange process” and suggested they stop and “put the right people” on the task.

Selectmen, however, finished approving previously tabled sections of the ordinance, and then voted 3-1 to accept it. Selectman Jeremy Volkernick was the lone dissenter.

After a 30-minute recess to allow Puiia time to add the night’s minimal changes into the document and provide a final draft, the board again voted 3-1 to place the document on the town meeting warrant, with the condition that it be reviewed by town attorney Thomas Carey. That stipulation was prompted by former Rumford Selectman Jim Thibodeau, who also worked on the defeated ordinance and strenuously objected to the selectmen’s expedited ordinance proposal.

“I think you’re throwing the citizens of Rumford to the wolves,” Thibodeau said.

He was referring to new language requiring developers to provide money to cover the town’s cost of enforcing the ordinance and any conditions of approval.

He accused the board of creating loopholes for wind developers and took offense with what he perceived as their attitude.

“This ho-hum attitude isn’t really going to cut it,” he said. “This town’s going to have repercussions.”

Selectmen Chairman Brad Adley just thanked him for his opinion and continued the meeting.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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