DIXFIELD – The Board of Selectmen voted 3-1 Monday evening to extend the town’s wind energy facility moratorium for another 180 days to give the Planning Board more time to amend the latest draft.
Town Manager Carlo Puiia said Selectman Mac Gill was the dissenting vote, while Chairman Hart Daley and Selectmen Norman Mitchell and Dana Whittemore voted in favor of extending the moratorium. Selectman Eugene Skibitsky was absent.
“Mac’s reason for voting against the extension of the moratorium was that the wind developers said they would not be ready for development for at least two years,” Puiia said. “Therefore, he didn’t find it necessary to extend the moratorium.”
It was the third time in three years the moratorium has been extended.
Patriot Renewables LLC of Quincy, Mass., approached Dixfield officials five years ago about constructing wind turbines on the Colonel Holman Mountain ridge. The town has been working on regulations to govern such developments.
In November 2012, voters approved a wind ordinance drafted by then-Selectmen Norine Clarke and Stephen Donahue.
In early 2013, selectmen voted to send the draft to the Planning Board and tasked it to amend some of the language.
Residents rejected an amended version from the Planning Board in November 2014, and as a result, the Board of Selectmen voted to place the Planning Board’s original draft before residents in June, which was defeated 359-390.
During Monday evening’s meeting, resident Dan McKay said he has fought the wind ordinance for six years.
“I fought it in Dixfield, Rumford and nationally,” McKay said, “and the way I see it now is that a majority of Dixfield voters have decided they want a wind project in Dixfield. We’re at the point now we’re beating a dead horse, and using taxpayer money to beat the dead horse. Sometimes, you lose.”
Resident Susan Holmes, a proponent of wind development, asked Daley why the moratorium needed to be extended.
“The moratorium we have in place right now expires on Aug. 15,” Daley said. “Under the legal advice of our lawyer with this issue, it was recommended that we keep the moratorium in place until our town has a wind ordinance that offers proper protection to residents.”
Holmes asked Daley when the town was planning to hold a vote on the new draft. He said he was hoping it would be in June 2016.
“Why can’t we do it in November?” Holmes asked.
“This whole thing has been such a divisive issue that has split this town in half,” Daley said. “If we had another vote in November, when we don’t have any major issues to vote on, we’re not going to draw a large number of people. I think we should wait until June, when we’re more likely to have a big turnout.”
In other business, Puiia said selectmen voted to postpone a vote on adopting an official code of ethics until they had a full board present.
“Eugene Skibitsky was not available to attend Monday’s meeting, and the board agreed that they wanted everyone present before making a decision,” Puiia said. “I have a draft for a basic code of ethics for the board to look over, including an appendix with state statutes that apply to town employees.”