FORT KENT, Maine — Voters at Monday night’s annual town meeting will decide the fate of a proposed municipal commercial wind energy facility ordinance.
A little over a year in the making, the proposed ordinance grew out of discussions surrounding the potential of a large-scale wind farm running through this northern Maine town.
Residents got their first look at the proposed ordinance at a planning board public hearing in January.
Since then, a local group calling themselves Citizens for Responsible Wind Development, or CROWD, developed an alternative ordinance to include stricter application time constraints, facility shutdown procedures and noise limits.
A petition to place the alternative ordinance was presented to the Fort Kent Town Council by Councilor Joel Desjardins at its March 8 meeting. While the petition and signatures were declared valid, the council opted against placing the CROWD proposed ordinance on the annual warrant.
“The council determined proper zoning procedures — as determined by state statute — had not been followed,” said Don Guimond, town manager. “They also found there was not time to follow those procedures before the town meeting.”
All zoning changes must go through a prescribed planning board and public hearing process, which the wind power ordinance on the town warrant had done, Guimond said.
“The proposed ordinance on the warrant was studied by the wind committee and had gone through the planning board,” Guimond said. “What is on the warrant is what was reported out of the planning board.”
Fort Kent has no commercial wind ordinance, and the language in the proposed ordinance would establish wind tower setbacks based on decibel levels rather than distance.
According to the proposed ordinance, “sound levels of commercial wind energy facilities shall not exceed a maximum of 45 dBA measured at non-participating landowners’ property lines and shall not exceed a maximum of 42 dBA measured at occupied buildings on non-participating landowners’ property.”
The proposed ordinance also stipulates that any commercial wind energy facilities be sited and designed to avoid “unreasonable adverse shadow flicker effect” on any occupied building located on a non-participating landowners’ property.
Included in the proposed ordinance is language governing turbine size, visual appearance, overspeed controls and decommissioning.
The residents’ proposal decreased that sound limit to 35 dBA and would have required the planning board to obtain independent sound analysis to ensure adequate sound modeling.
“I looked over the [CROWD] proposal and to me it was acceptable,” Desjardins said. “I actually felt it did not go far enough and a lot of people have told me the same thing.”
Desjardins said he would have liked to see residents have the choice between the two proposals at the town meeting.
“I don’t feel the planning board addressed the concerns of the people who attended the [January] public hearing,” he said. “I wish the two ordinances would have been promoted head to head, [and] I feel the council’s actions denied voters that choice.”
Fort Kent’s town meeting is 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 22, at the Fort Kent Community High School.