LINCOLN — Planning Board Chairman Peter Phinney will review a proposed $120 million wind farm for Rollins Mountain when it is submitted, despite working for one of its benefactors, and the board will not pursue a moratorium that would delay the project.
Board members made those decisions during a 2½-hour meeting at Mattanawcook Academy late Tuesday that likely previewed future hearings. Representatives from Wind farm proponent First Wind of Massachusetts and the Friends of Lincoln Lakes residents’ group were among 40 people attending.
First Wind representatives said they would be filing permit applications with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection by Nov. 7, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by Nov. 21. First Wind hopes to build 40 1.5-megawatt windmills in Burlington, Lincoln, Lee and Winn, creating as much as 60 megawatts of electricity through Evergreen Wind Power, a First Wind subsidiary.
The Friends group argued for a moratorium and against what they believe would be the wind farm’s harmful impact upon the aesthetics, land values and health of residents.
One member, Harry Epp of 230 Folsom Pond Road, gave the board a copy of testimony a New York doctor gave to the New York State Legislature’s Energy Committee in 2006 claiming that some residents have suffered from sleep deprivation, headaches, dizziness, nausea, exhaustion, depression and Tinnitus due to proximity to massive wind turbines such as those First Wind wants to build.
A First Wind spokesman did not immediately return telephone messages and e-mails seeking comment on Wednesday.
Epp described windmills as “a complex, controversial subject, misunderstood and under investigation,” and said the board should support a moratorium to give residents and board members time to better understand what First Wind is proposing.
“I would like to see these things put on hold for three or four years until the technology makes it possible to locate these things offshore,” group member Michael DiCenso said.
Other audience members praised First Wind as a conscientious creator of wind power, which generates electricity without harmful pollution, and said that the company’s investment in the area would decrease taxes and create more industry and jobs.
Board Vice Chairman B. Michael Ireland, a land-use permitting environmental consultant, said a moratorium such as the board would consider would only delay the project six months, not eliminate it, as some group members seemed to desire.
“We have to see what they want to do in order to judge it properly,” said Ireland, who is not related to Town Council member Michael Ireland.
Planning Board members readily admitted they hadn’t any experience dealing with windmill turbines, but said it would be their responsibility to learn. Also, the board will rely upon Maine DEP to evaluate the project’s environmental impact, Ireland said.
With Phinney abstaining, the board voted 6-0 to approve his evaluating First Wind’s application, despite his being a real estate agent employed by H.C. Haynes Inc. of Winn, which owns land on which many First Wind turbines shall be built.
Phinney said that while he is an employee of Haynes, he would not receive any direct benefit from the project or his employer as required under Maine General Statutes. Board members accepted his statements without comment.