MECHANIC FALLS — The Town Council voted 3-1 Monday night against a 180-day moratorium on development of commercial alternative energy facilities.

Councilors Tarsha Downing, Darrel Young and Cynthia Larrabee opposed the ordinance, while Paula Stotts voted for it. Rose Aikman, citing her knowledge of a potential project involving alternative energy, abstained from voting.

The moratorium ordinance was requested by the Planning Board, which approved two solar farms on large tracts of land in the past year. Its purpose was to give the town time to write an ordinance to control siting, installation and operation of such facilities.

Monday’s discussion centered on whether the town would suffer economically if alternative energy companies, such as solar farms, look elsewhere to build.

Aikman, speaking as an audience member, said the moratorium would send the “wrong message” to businesses.

Her sentiments were echoed by local real estate agent Terry Hewitt, who added that endorsing a moratorium is a “slippery slope” if the town wants to attract businesses.

Planning Board Chairman Lou Goulet said the board does not want to stifle growth, but the town needs to be protected. His concern was what locations would work best for alternative energy projects.

Goulet said the Planning Board will continue to serve on the town’s behalf, whatever the council decides on the moratorium ordinance.

Downing, the council chairwoman, said she doesn’t want the town pushing development away in its effort to catch up with ordinances.

In other business, residents are being asked to voluntarily wear a mask when doing business in the Municipal Building.

The council increased the property tax rate by 15 cents to $21.60 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Interim Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz said the town will undergo a revaluation in 2023, which will impact the property tax effective July 1, 2024.

The council approved spending $33,597 for a LifePak monitor/defibrillator for the Fire/Rescue Department. The money will come from the $157,000 the town is expected to receive this year from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Councilors also approved the purchase of a John Deere commercial lawn mower for $11,058.

Jessica Smith was appointed to the Regional School Unit 16 board of directors until June 2022.


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