The red line indicates where the New England Clean Energy Connect corridor would cross through Wilton into Chesterville. The two green areas labeled as WET-114-01 and WET114-02 are wetland areas that the high-transmission line would cross over. Screenshot of NECEC map

WILTON — The Planning Board on Thursday reviewed the New England Clean Energy Connect’s site plan application relative to the Wilton’s Energy/Transportation Conduits Ordinance and accepted that it was complete.

The NECEC application requests the approval to erect five high-transmission poles in Wilton as part of Central Maine Power Co.’s 145-mile corridor for transporting Hydro-Québec energy from the province of Québec, Canada to Massachusetts.

Wilton Code Enforcement Officer Charlie Lavin, middle, reviews a New England Clean Energy Connect map showing the proposed high-transmission line with Gerry Mirabile, left, of Central Maine Power Company and Environmental Scientist James P. Morin, right, on Thursday, Feb. 18, during a Planning Board meeting. Andrea Swiedom/Franklin Journal

Before the board conducts a site plan review and approves the project, a public hearing will be held March 4 for residents to raise questions and concerns.

The NECEC poles will tower above the tree line, with heights ranging from 91 to 113 feet, supporting 320kV HVDC electric transmission lines. The corridor will pass through Wilton from Farmington at McCrillis Corner Road, cut through nearly two miles of agricultural fields and forest and enter Chesterville by crossing Wilton Road/Route 156.

The land in Wilton that will accommodate the corridor is owned by CMP which will widen the already cleared area by 75 feet for the new poles. Construction of the corridor in Wilton would begin in August.

The board was primarily concerned with ensuring that the application met the standards outlined in Section 5.27 of the town’s Energy/Transportation Conduits Ordinance. That ordinance protects wetland areas, limited residential and recreational zones from the development of conduits.

NECEC maps highlight four wetland areas in Wilton that the transmission line would cross. According to the town’s ordinance, a 250-foot buffer must be maintained around all wetlands, deer wintering grounds, vernal pools, and bird habitats. Section 5.27 (3)(b) of the ordinance states:

“The buffer is to remain undisturbed during construction and as long as the permit is in effect but vegetation removal is allowed within this buffer if necessary, to accommodate the intended use and only if permitted by shoreland zoning regulations. Any variation requires approval of Wilton Code Enforcement Officer.”

Board member Dr. Michael Parker said that this should not be an issue since the area is not a shoreland zone and none of the poles would be erected in the highlighted wetland areas.

“Have you considered any of the vernal pools in that area that you’ll be working in?” board member Lisa Small asked representatives of NECEC present in-person and over Zoom.

Environmental Scientist James P. Morin said he didn’t believe there were any vernal pools in that area.

NECEC representatives were asked by the board to clarify vegetation control stipulations.

“You’re asking us to give you blanket approval forever and ever of the use of herbicide based on the fact that the (Department of Environmental Protection) is giving you, even though our ordinance states that any use of herbicides or pesticides must be approved by the Planning Board at any time, which I would interpret you need to come to us when you want to use herbicide on the property, on the land,” Parker said.

Attorney Matt Manahan, representing NECEC, said because the ordinance is worded as “any time” as opposed to “every time,” that NECEC would only be required to notify the Planning Board when there would be a change in the use of an herbicide.

Morin confirmed that NECEC would use a third-party company that would follow rules and regulations governed by the state for vegetation control.

The NECEC written response to the town’s ordinance states, “CMP uses a selective herbicide program to treat areas once every four years to maintain this early successional stage of vegetation in its corridors. Herbicide usage will comply with all requirements and standards established by the Maine Board of Pesticides Control. NECEC LLC will not apply herbicides aerially for the control of vegetation.”

Code Enforcement Officer Charlie Lavin said he notified the abutters to the corridor’s proposed perimeter in Wilton and has yet to receive any feedback or concerns.

Residents may attend the March 4 Planning Board meeting at 7 p.m. via Zoom or in person at the town office to provide comments on the proposed corridor site.

In other business, the board approved Franklin Community Health Network’s business use application to lease the building at 75 Allen Street for Beal University to establish a satellite nursing school.

Beal University President Sheryl DeWalt said there are a number of students who have been commuting from the Franklin County area to Bangor for courses who will be able to use the satellite school. She said the first enrollment period will open in May, as long as the program achieves its accreditation in time.

The board also approved Mountain Side Power Sports owner Dan Daigle’s request to sell tractor implements and Bobcat loaders.

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