Hearing on Rumford wind ordinance evokes passions

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RUMFORD — Thursday night’s public hearing by selectmen on their proposed wind ordinance revealed possible holes in the document that a developer might take advantage of, according to some who spoke.

The meeting also revealed a lackluster attendance by many who will vote on the document at town meeting polls on June 14.

Those who did attend mostly criticized the board for trying to rush through an ordinance without realizing the ramifications of paring significant protective measures built into the first ordinance that was defeated on Nov. 2, 2010.

A few thanked the board for its work. But two selectmen, Greg Buccina and Jeremy Volkernick, who voted against the ordinance, urged residents to defeat the ordinance and force the board to spend more time creating a “better” document.

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The meeting began with Chairman Brad Adley reiterating the history of wind ordinance writing to the new proposal, which was expedited from Selectman Jeff Sterling’s rewrite last month of the first ordinance to place it on the town meeting warrant.

Reading from a prepared statement, Sterling said that once he got into the ordinance, “it became clear that there was no tweaking, (instead) there was going to be major revisions that would eliminate many layers of protections that were put in place.”

Those protections, he said, caused voters to defeat the first proposed ordinance.

“It will be up to the voters to decide if we went too far or possibly not far enough,” he said.

Volkernick said the board didn’t have the time it needed to craft a balanced ordinance, urged people to read the document and said he didn’t approve of it.

“I think we as a board fell down with this ordinance,” Buccina said. “We need to do this over. … Guys, we failed miserably.”

“If you vote for this ordinance, I think you should buckle up,” he said, reiterating that the board should be fair to Rumford residents and not wind developers.

Buccina urged voters not to accept the ordinance.

Selectman Mark Belanger labeled the document a “reasonable ordinance with good protections.”

Businessman Dan Richard said he believes the ordinance is good.

“If it puts one new job in this town, as a small business owner, I welcome it,” he said.

Former Rumford Town Manager Len Greaney sought the board’s rationale in changing six items from the defeated ordinance, among which are decommissioning, sound and safety setbacks, and sound levels.

He urged people to “vote down the ordinance and take another look at it” and pull Boston-based wind developer First Wind into discussions, since it has been in a holding pattern for two years with a project.

Resident Peter Buotte told the board that it took out the definition of “short duration repetitive sound,” leaving that up to interpretation by lawyers.

To which Sterling said, “We aren’t scientists. We took what was defeated and made it less restrictive.”

Resident Rita Aromaa worried about the allowed increased sound levels and who she should complain to should that be a problem.

“Every word you changed can have a significant impact,” businessman Roger Arsenault said.

He didn’t think the ordinance was ready.

Former Selectman Jim Thibodeau agreed. He asked the board why it removed language on third-party arbitration and the requirement that wind developers get operational licenses.

“This is a Swiss-cheese ordinance and I highly recommend that the town vote this down and have the board or a committee work on it again,” Thibodeau said.

Discussion continued in such manner before a few shouting matches and innuendos began flying between Belanger and Thibodeau and between Buccina and former Selectman Arthur Boivin.

Adley had to yell at them to quiet them, before proceeding to the next speaker.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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