SUMNER — Approximately 60 residents and visitors packed the Fire House on Wednesday night to discuss the proposed industrial wind power ordinance.
The town will vote on it at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 16, in the Fire House.
Members of the Industrial Wind Ordinance Committee and town officials answered questions about the proposed ordinance.
Several people expressed concern about a letter sent to many residents urging them to vote against the ordinance. The letters came from at least four out-of-state locations, had handwritten addresses but no return addresses. While they referenced the website of Clear Sky Energy LLC, it was not clear who actually wrote the letters.
Resident Ed Hinshaw said he believed the letter was a hoax because it was so unprofessionally done and was full of misleading information and errors.
There was much interest in the comments of Woodstock resident Leola Ballweber. Even though her mobile home is 1.2 miles from the wind farm, she said she experiences annoying noise levels. She urged Sumner residents to pass the ordinance. Woodstock did not have a wind power ordinance when a developer moved in.
Because her town operates under state rules, she must hire her own experts and lawyers to enforce noise regulations. She endorsed the proposed Sumner ordinance that requires the town code enforcement officer to investigate complaints and enforce the regulations. Under the Sumner ordinance, the town will have access to developers' sound-monitoring records and can hire needed experts at the developers' expense.
Much discussion was centered on what would happen if the proposed ordinance was defeated.
Resident Pam Cheeseman said that with the ordinance, the developer would have to furnish the town with a performance bond that would guarantee that the towers would be dismantled and the site restored when the turbines were no longer operational. Without the ordinance, the towers could be abandoned if the developer went bankrupt after government subsidies and tax breaks expired.
Wind power developers have presented various figures on what the economic benefit would be to the town.
Committee member Larry O'Rourke indicated these benefits were overstated, based on information from the Maine Revenue Services.
Committee member Jeff Pfeiffer presented evidence that residents could see loss of property value from 5 to 34 percent. If property valuations had to be adjusted for this loss, tax rates might have to go up, he said.
Roxbury resident Cathy Mattson compared going up against wind developers without an ordinance to trying to regulate junkyards without an ordinance. You can't do it, she said. An ordinance will require the companies to do what is right.
Mattson also spoke on how varying conditions and times affected noise. She said that at her home she can hear the wind turbines 2 miles away or even the Rumford mill 5 miles away, if conditions are right.
Selectmen Mary Ann Haxton and Danny Perron spoke in favor of the ordinance. Selectmen Wally Litchfield said the committee had spent hours on the ordinance and it was now up to the voters. He did not express personal support or opposition.