Workshop Dec 9 to craft new Rumford wind ordinance

RUMFORD — Selectmen will start work on a new ordinance to regulate wind development projects at a workshop at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9, in the Municipal Building Conference Room.

Should the meeting attract a large crowd, it will be held upstairs in Rumford Falls Auditorium.

Selectmen on Thursday night opted to use a previous process of convening workshops with public input at the beginning and end of the board's work.

A previous ordinance widely regarded as anti-wind power, which was drafted by the board's Wind Power Advisory Committee, was defeated at the Nov. 2 polls by a tally of 1,048 yes to 1,339 no.

Rather than tweak that document, selectmen voted 4-0 to start over by customizing a wind power ordinance template created by the Office of Maine State Planning. Selectman Jeremy Volkernick was absent.

Plenty of discussion ensued, however, before they reached that vote.

When Selectman Mark Belanger said he wanted the board to use the state template and not the defeated proposed ordinance, Selectman Greg Buccina objected.

“There's nothing that protects our citizens in that Maine State Planning Office ordinance,” he said.

Buccina said officials who created the template devised it to create economic development and weren't looking out for towns.

“I don't think they really considered the effects on any community,” he said. “If you want to use it as a template, it's just not all inclusive of what I think we need to do as responsible selectmen to do what's best for members of our community.”

“If you want to just write something up so that anybody can come in here and put up a windmill, that's what you've got with that template,” Buccina said. “I think we need to draft something that's going to protect our citizens.”

He suggested changing portions of the defeated ordinance deigned overly restrictive.

“It's not a bad ordinance,” he said. “I think it was labeled as restrictive, and maybe so. Let's look at it and maybe ease those restrictive things a bit, but there's a lot of things in there that I'm not going to bend on.”

Selectman Jeff Sterling recommended taking information from sections of the defeated ordinance and the template to make a new one.

Resident Candace Casey reiterated a previous town vote of 751-364 in favor of wind power, and then labeled the defeated ordinance as a “permanent moratorium” on wind projects.

She urged selectmen to customize the state template to fit Rumford.

When Buccina again objected to using the template, Belanger said a petition is circulating through town to have selectmen use the state template.

“We should do what the voters have asked us to do,” Belanger said.

He then motioned to use the template. It was seconded and more discussion ensued.

Mexico resident Dr. Albert Aniel said that as a physician, he believes the main issue is wind turbine noise.

He then said there is an effort under way in the Legislature to amend the state's noise regulations, which don't pertain to wind turbines.

Aniel urged the board to work from the defeated ordinance and wait for the state to develop new noise regulations.

Sterling said noise limits in the defeated ordinance didn't pass.

Resident Jim Thibodeau sided with Buccina.

“First, I recommend you just take the state model and dump it in the trash,” Thibodeau said. “There's no protection for our citizens in there. Secondly, don't be misguided by the word 'restrictive' versus 'protective.'”

He said he doesn't care if anything in the ordinance affects a developer.

“If we're being protective of our citizens and someone else deems it too restrictive, that's their problem,” he said.

Resident Roger Arsenault asked selectmen to refrain from having any discussions with wind developers, whether as a board or on their own.

A Mountain Valley High School student urged selectmen to be mindful of future benefits to townspeople when drafting a new ordinance.

The board then voted unanimously to start from the state template.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

Rumford beware

To fail to pass a strong wind ordinance is to condemn the health and well being of many citizens of Rumford. Of the three industrial wind sites that are located near where people live, all three are out of compliance with state noise limits in the licenses. All three use the same GE 1.5 MW turbines that First Wind will use in the Rollins Project under construction in Lincoln and will likely be used in Rumford.

At Mars Hill, it is well known that noise has been such a problem that the state granted a variance from 45 dBA to 50 dBA and there are still noise readings that exceed the higher limit. When Dr. Michael Nissenbaum issued his findings in 2010 from his medical study at Mars Hill, he recommended a 7000-foot setback for public health. There has been no remediation by First Wind, so residents of East Ridge Road and Mountain Road must resort to suing First Wind.

Just a few weeks ago, at Vinalhaven, the State DEP’s own noise consultant, Warren Brown, after analyzing sound studies resulting from complaints, wrote: “there exists a significant body of consistent meteorological and sound data indicating sound levels greater than applicable limits. Substantial changes are recommended for FIW nighttime operations, limiting WTG sound levels at ML-A to 45 dBA.”

In May of this year, Acoustics expert Robert Rand of Brunswick revealed the results of his research at Freedom, indicating that noise at that site was substantially out of compliance with 45 dBA more than one mile from the turbines. His report is being finalized for presentation to the DEP. In the first publication of his findings, in an article co-written with another acoustics engineer, Stephen Ambrose, they state: “Currently there is no effective, reliable noise mitigation for wind turbines of this size other than shutdown. Therefore, at this time it appears appropriate that proposed wind turbine sites should position wind turbines at least one mile away from residential properties and further for sites with more than one wind turbine.” Ambrose and Rand are both members of the Institute of Noise Control Engineering and highly respected in their field.

 's picture

Rumford & Lincoln

It is sad that Rumford succumbed to the First Wind-funded (likely with your taxpayer dollars!) campaign to defeat the wind ordinance. Please, if you make decisions about a wind ordinance based on the state model, encompass the best of the protections from the defeated ordinance to protect your citizens. The state model was drafted by the wind industry to fit their needs, just like the Expedited Wind Permitting ordinance was. Rumford and Lincoln have similarities. They are both paper mill towns, both in economically struggling regions, both in beautiful settings. Rumford has its mountains; Lincoln its lakes.

First Wind was able to bamboozle Lincoln officials and manipulated them for years behind the scenes. They have offered nothing to Lincoln and extorted them for half their taxes back via TIF. You know they will demand TIF in Rumford as well. The Rollins project in Lincoln is under construction now and the mountains are devastated. Blasted away and scalped. Take a look at the photos posted on www.windtaskforce.org and see if this is the fate of your mountains you want.

Monique Aniel's picture

Use the precautionary principle

am amazed at the forces at play in Rumford.
On the one hand you have responsible citizens who are trying hard to make sure none of the current suffering endured now by citizens living too close to wind turbines in Freedom, Vinalhaven and Mars Hill and countless other places in the world will be imposed on Rumford residents, and that Rumford will not be harmed financially by an unsuccessful development, and on the other hand a group of citizens, with suspicious ties to the wind developer, are doing their best to make sure that this could happen by forcing a wind ordinance that offers no protection against those abuses. It is a shame!

Why does Rumford need to protect its citizens against improperly regulated windpower ?
For two reasons - Law and Health.

The laws which have greased the skids for wind power are coming under attack from citizens and lawmakers, both in Maine and in Washington. The wind industry is on the ropes, as First Wind's failed IPO makes perfectly clear. Wind power cannot compete in the current electricity market without massive taxpayer giveaways which are going to expire. Cap and Trade failed. RPS failed. Stimulus fund rebates are going to disappear. Angus King has failed to finance his Roxbury project and is counting on a DOE federal loan guarantee to bail out him out. Here at home, the governor and legislature will be taking a hard look at reducing electric rates and that is not good news for the wind industry. Wind power costs $150 per MW to generate with a mountain top turbine. Electricity sells for an average of $50 per MW in the ISO-NE grid. The $100 difference is coming from subsidies that are not likely to continue with the new congress in Washington, or the new administration and legislature in Maine.

Also there is realization of the inadequacies of the current noise standards by both the DEP and Dora Mills MD, head of the MCDC, and a report is going to be presented to the legislature by the state Dept of Energy and Security addressing the noise and health concerns of wind turbines. Fisk admitted when he came to Rumford that current noise regulations impose "annoyance" on host communities, and that there is no agreement on what constitutes a reasonable level of annoyance with Maine's current noise regs. Fisk and Mills are in agreement that changes to Maine's noise regs to address the problems created by existing wind projects are needed. The BEP will be considering modifications to the noise regs in the near future, and bills will be considered by the legislature that address this issue. Where Maine's noise regulations end up is a question mark.

For those reasons , the Rumford selectmen need to adopt the courageous and responsible attitude of the precautionary principle. The burden of proof that wind turbines will not cause harm falls on the wind industry. So far, they have only said that the Wind Committee's ordinance would prevent them from putting turbines in Rumford. Make them prove that the ordinance they want will not cause the same problems that have plagued residents of other towns who believed the wind industry when they said their turbines would cause no harm.

Why would a responsible industry or citizens who care about the community want anything less?

 's picture

facts

The board has stated that they are not going to ignore the potential impact of wind power. they will be bringing in independent consultants to discuss these issues.

Again this is a fact.

 's picture

State model ordinance same as no ordinance

The state model ordinance template is the same as no ordinance. If they're going to use the state's template, they'd be better off not wasting time, just go with no ordinance. The state model was drafted for the benefit of wind developers and had nothing to do with safeguarding public interest.

Since when do towns write ordinances for the benefit of developers rather than in the interest of all its people? The residents of Rumford who believe this is going to be economic nirvana have not looked too terribly far below the surface. There's going to be a lot of irreversible buyers' remorse when the keys to the town are handed over to First Wind or whatever other wind shill comes along.

 's picture

State template

For those who didn't notice, the board is going to take the state template and add in aspects of the previously proposed ordinance. Many of the issues addressed in the defeated ordinance are not even addressed in the state template. The end result will be a hybrid between the two that documents.

These are the facts.

 's picture

GB and JT Don't Listen

To the people! Never have!!! It will be be unfortunate if the Selectboard allows the anti wind people to contribute anything. The people spoke at the polls. Can't they get the hint? I think not! If any board member wants to side with the anti-winders then they should step down from the board because they they refuse to listen to the people. Dr. A should stay on his side of the river on this issue and stop attempting to persuade Rumford citizens anymore.

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