Wind turbine, land use rules on Clifton ballot

Posted June 07, 2010, at 11:31 p.m.

CLIFTON, Maine — Tucked inside the inch-thick amended land use ordinance voters will cast ballots on today are 28 pages of rules that deal exclusively with wind turbine projects.

The results of today’s vote will determine whether a second vote will be needed later this month to deal with a citizen’s petition calling for a moratorium on wind turbine projects, town officials say.

If residents endorse the amended land use ordinance today, it would “nullify the petition,” Town Clerk Deborah Hodgins said.

If residents shoot down the amended land use ordinance, selectmen will meet Thursday to create wording for a special town meeting vote, now scheduled for 7 p.m. July 17, to address the citizen’s requested moratorium, she said.

“The planning board spent the past three years working on a new land use ordinance,” according to talking points being distributed at the town office. “The past year was spent looking extensively on wind turbines.

“With all the media attention to other rural communities, our board researched other ordinances, national and international standards, such as those promoted by the World Health Organization, in the development of the ordinance,” they state.

A developer has purchased land on Pisgah Mountain and hopes to develop a three-turbine windmill project on his land, Selectman Ed Beauchamp has said.

Some residents are worried about protecting the rural character of the town, and others are concerned about possible health issues, according to the talking points.

Chapter 14 of the proposed land use ordinance deals with industrial wind energy facilities and has a separate section for small wind energy systems that deal with the installation of a single turbine.

The proposed industrial wind energy rules deal with wind power generators that produce 100 kilowatts or more of energy, and require all turbines conform to industry standards, to be certified by a Maine-licensed engineer, and for the preliminary site plan application to include specific environmental impact studies.

The studies required are for pre-development ambient sound and a predictive study, shadow flicker and glint, visual impact and wildlife habitat assessments.

“The visual impact assessment shall describe the existing character of the surrounding area, including scenic views of and from the wind energy facility,” the proposed ordinance amendment states. “The assessment shall include the scope and scale of the potential effect on, as well as distance from, scenic areas named in the Clifton Comprehensive Plan.”

Under the proposed rules, setbacks from property lines would be “at least 200 percent of the height of the wind turbine,” and must be at least 1,500 feet from residences, businesses and schools.

Sound levels of the wind turbines may not exceed 45 decibels at night and 55 dBA during the day anywhere within 4,000 feet of the facility.

The proposed rules also would require annual inspections, and that the project conforms with all state laws.

“This [is] your town, please vote,” Julie Clewley, chairwoman of the board, said in her annual report.

Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the town hall. In addition to the land use ordinance, residents also will cast ballots on the school budget.

Editor’s note: The publication version of this story listed the date of the town meeting incorrectly. It has been corrected above.

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