LINCOLN, Maine — The Lincoln Planning Board used “ludicrous” arguments in shoehorning a proposed $130 million wind farm into its regulations, a Bar Harbor lawyer opposing the board’s approval of the proposal contended Tuesday.
Representing a group opposing the project, the Friends of Lincoln Lakes, attorney Lynne A. Williams filed an appeal with the Lincoln Appeals Board on Monday charging that First Wind’s turbines do not belong in residential zones of Rollins Mountain, where the project is slated to go if it is approved by Maine Department of Environmental Protection and other agencies.
In her two-page appeal, Williams said the board’s 6-1 approval Dec. 1 violated its own, and most other, municipal land-use ordinances for residential zones.
Williams claimed that the board’s decision effectively defined the farm’s 40 380-foot turbines as major public utilities, which, she said, are typically considered “electricity, water, sanitary, sewer, stormwater drainage, telephone and cable television” associated with residential uses in the R-1 and R-2 zones.
“My argument is, ‘Look, don’t be ludicrous. This [ordinance] certainly doesn’t mean power-generation facilities, which is what this is,’” Williams said Tuesday. “In my opinion, this is an industrial project that should go in an industrial zone or at the very least in a commercial zone.”
Planning Board Chairman Peter Phinney did not return telephone calls to his home and office Tuesday.
Town Manager Lisa Goodwin and Town Zoning Enforcement Supervisor Ruth Birtz’s only comment was that the appeals board will hear the matter at 7 p.m. Jan. 8.
Alan Grant, Judy Jenkins, Diana Johnston, Ted Ocana, John Shaefer and Brian Stormann serve on the appeals board, Birtz said. The board seldom meets due to a lack of appeals of Planning Board decisions.
With member Heidi Stevens the sole dissenter, the Planning Board voted 6-1 during a meeting Dec. 1 to issue permits to First Wind of Massachusetts, which wants to build 40 turbines, each generating 1½ megawatts, on ridgelines in Burlington, Lincoln, Lee and Winn. Transmission lines would be built in Mattawamkeag.
The project would generate at least $400,000 in tax revenue for the town annually, Goodwin has said. It still needs approval from the other towns, the DEP and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Project proponents have praised First Wind as a conscientious creator of wind power, saying the Lincoln Lakes project would create as much as 60 megawatts of pollution-free electricity in peak winds.
They say the company’s investment in the area would decrease taxes, create more industry and jobs and provide towns with funding they can invest in infrastructure improvements and economic development.
The Friends group contends that the turbines would threaten human and animal health, lower land values with light flicker and low-decibel sound, violate at least three portions of town zoning law and typically generate a fraction of their capacity.
“I think what this underscores is that the planning boards in our towns and in our states are not prepared for the incursion of these big corporate projects,” said Williams, an environmental attorney who also serves on Bar Harbor’s planning board.
“We don’t have the ordinances in place to make clear what the requirements are for permitting these projects and what process our planning boards need to go through whether to determine what project is appropriate for our towns,” she added.
The appeals board has 30 days to schedule a hearing of the appeal and 30 days after the hearing to issue a ruling, Williams said. If the appeals board rejects the appeal, the group has 30 days to file an appeal in court.
The Planning Board voted 6-0 Monday to approve First Wind’s office in the basement of the courthouse building on Main Street.