RUMFORD — About 20 people attended a special business meeting Tuesday to discuss proposed charter changes on how budget and initiated articles are voted and on a proposed wind ordinance.
Of the few who spoke, most were from out of town and most addressed the wind ordinance, a summary of which is not included in the warrant. Instead, voters are asked to visit the Town Clerk's Office to view it before voting on it and the charter changes on Nov. 2.
After there was little to no discussion on changing the charter to prevent a minority from trumping the majority on split-recommendation budgetary and initiated article funding matters, Finance Committee member Josanne Dolloff asked how restrictive the ordinance is for wind development.
The only person willing to answer was Neil Kiely, project manager for Boston-based wind developer First Wind, which has tentatively proposed a wind farm on Rumford mountains. He said it's on hold until Rumford develops a law to regulate such development.
Kiely told Dolloff that Rumford's proposed ordinance was essentially copied from Dixmont's ordinance, which John Maloney has labeled as anti-wind power. Maloney is a senior land-use planner with the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments in Auburn.
“The Dixmont ordinance, as John Maloney testified, was designed to stop wind in that community, and it worked,” Kiely said.
He explained that there were two wind developers in Dixmont, one of which had a meteorological tower set up to measure wind. When Dixmont voters approved the ordinance, the developers left, Kiely said.
He said First Wind looked at the Rumford ordinance that was drafted by the Board of Selectmen's Wind Power Advisory Committee, and was told by committee members that it was modeled on Dixmont's.
But Kiely said the Rumford ordinance is exactly the same as Dixmont's except for some procedural changes and some situations that were made even more restrictive.
“So, they took the Dixmont ordinance, they didn't make it any more flexible or accommodating to wind, and that's the ordinance that's on the ballot for Nov. 2,” Kiely said.
Dolloff said Rumford voters must be mindful of the town's future generations for energy needs.
“I think we have to get back to what Mother Nature is supplying us with, whether it be wind, hydro or solar,” she said. “And I think that we can't have restrictions where we totally wipe out or close the door on anything natural.”
“We can't think of ourselves and what's happening today," Dolloff said. "We really have to look long term, and if this ordinance is going to close that door, I can't be in favor of it."
Dr. Albert Aniel of Mexico disagreed with Kiely's assessment, saying the ordinance “is not anti-wind.”
He said Maloney's statement is merely his opinion. Aniel said he believes the ordinance would protect Rumford residents, which is what it was designed to do.
Selectman Greg Buccina, reading from a prepared statement, said Rumford needs an ordinance and should vote for the one that is proposed, which he helped create.
Resident David Glover Sr. disagreed.
“My biggest concern, given how this proposed ordinance is written, it is — despite what some people would want you to think — anti-business,” Glover said.
“I think we do need an ordinance in place," he said. "I don't think this is the answer.”