ROXBURY – By margins of less than 10 votes, residents at Thursday night’s special town meeting OK’d two amendments to town law, allowing wind power facilities to be built on town ridges.

The tally was 89-81 to amend the comprehensive plan to allow wind generation facilities in Roxbury, and 87-80 to create a mountain district zone to designate areas suitable for erecting wind energy facilities.

“It’s a good thing that everybody in town was here. We’re very pleased,” said Robert Gardiner of Independence Wind, the company behind Thursday night’s vote with its $120 million pending wind power project.

“Obviously, it’s been a very contentious issue in town and I’m glad to have the controversy over,” he said.

“It’s been a long process and the people made an informed decision,” said Independence Wind principal Angus King. “By all accounts, it was a huge turnout and we’re just happy that people were willing to listen and support the project. We’re looking forward to making this the best wind power project in the country in terms of its relation to its neighbors.”

“I’m elated that the people in Roxbury have made their opinions known,” said Bob Patton of First Wind, another wind power developer testing winds in Roxbury and Rumford.

Roxbury Pond resident Linda Kuras, who led a movement to gain more information for townspeople and opposed the project, declined to comment, but indicated the matter isn’t over despite the vote.

Voters were packed wall-to-wall inside the town office, up a stairwell, in the town clerk’s office and inside a broom closet. Some even stood outside in subzero temperatures until Selectman Deborah DeRoche asked nonresidents to leave.

Selectmen’s Chairman John Sutton said selectmen considered moving the meeting to a larger venue like SAD 43 schools in Mexico or Rumford. Ultimately, they chose to stay put so people could meet inside the new building their money and votes helped build.

After Mexico Town Manager John Madigan was elected as moderator, he read the comprehensive plan article then sought discussion.

It quickly became obvious that people only came to vote, not to talk or listen after more than 18 months of informational meetings and hearings.

One man argued that amending the comprehensive plan would change the rural and scenic character of the town.

“If this project is allowed to go through, Roxbury will no longer be rural and scenic,” he said. “You will no longer have a town to come back to, because it will be an industrial junkyard.”

Another man nearby countered that opinion and argued that it wouldn’t be an industrial junkyard, that wind power would help the town.

After a few more spoke, discussion was ended with a motion and two-thirds vote. That’s when the tedious process began of forming a line around the outside wall. People then painstakingly inched forward to the two ballot booths, placing either a Yes or No marker into the ballot box and resumed their positions.

More than 30 minutes later, all ballots were cast, Madigan read the zoning district article, then the entire process began anew, despite the fact that some people left after voting the first time thinking that was it.

Because both proposed amendments passed, a third article was rendered moot.

“These things aren’t the bugaboo that people make them out to be,” planner Mark Henry said of wind turbines after the first vote. “I really thought it would be a much more decisive vote than it was. I really did.”

Sutton said he was glad that people were civil.

“I think it speaks well for Roxbury that it passed,” Sutton said. “There will always be one more challenge, but at least now the town has amended its comprehensive plan and established a new zone.”


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