DIXFIELD — Residents will vote Tuesday on a controversial ordinance to regulate wind power projects.
The vote was originally set for June 12 but postponed in May after a public hearing where dozens of residents voiced opinions of such developments.
Selectmen decided to take the information gained at the hearing and postpone the ordinance vote until Election Day. Meanwhile, they did more research on the financial impacts of a wind farm in Dixfield, as well as addressing specific concerns of residents.
Three years ago Patriot Renewables LLC of Quincy, Mass., approached Dixfield about constructing 13 wind turbines on the Colonel Holman Mountain ridge. Since then, the company has been conducting research on the ridge, including wind tests, bird studies and environmental impacts.
The ordinance has been a controversial topic for residents. Many argue that wind turbines will be helpful to the town's economy and a step in the right direction for green energy. Others believe it will destroy the ridgeline environment, devalue property in the immediate area and create too much noise.
Town Manager Eugene Skibitsky, a proponent of the ordinance, said it would be “a great opportunity to stabilize the tax base.” If it's voted down, selectmen will draft an ordinance that would prohibit the construction of wind farms in town, he said previously.
“Basically, it comes down to this vote,” Skibitsky said. “If you're in favor of wind power, vote yes. If you're not in favor of wind power, vote no.”
Selectman Hart Daley said he's against the ordinance even being on the ballot. The board submitted the ordinance to Brunswick lawyer Kristen Collins for a legal opinion, he said, and when she returned it “27 of the 34 pages had suggested changes on them.” However, Daley said the ordinance being placed before voters has not taken these changes into consideration.
“People are voting on an ordinance that doesn't have all the legal changes,” Daley said. In a previous meeting, he said, Tom Carroll, project coordinator for Patriot Renewables said the company wouldn't put a shovel in the ground until 2015, which would give the board plenty of time to amend the ordinance.
“It's not about pro-wind or anti-wind,” he said, adding he's notagainst "green energy.”
“I just don't think the wind farm is the way to go,” Daley said. “It's not a good financial decision for this town.”
Carroll said even if the ordinance passes Nov. 6, there's still a lot of work to do.
“We still have to do more bird and bat tests, and there's still the matter of getting all the right permits,” he said.
Carroll also said the other towns approached by Patriot Renewables, such as Canton and Carthage, initially had the same reaction as residents of Dixfield, but over time, the company was granted approval to move forward with the project.
The ordinance states that turbines must be 4,000 feet from property lines. It also regulates the level of noise allowed during daytime and nighttime hours. It also contains plans for decommissioning and land restoration once the development ceases operation.
In addition to the ordinance, voters will choose between former Selectman Norine Clarke and former Planning Board member Norman Mitchell for selectman and decide whether the town should begin steps to withdraw from RSU 10. Voters will also decide whether to take $50,000 from taxes or surplus to pay for the withdrawal effort.