Residents renew Rollins Mountain complaints

Posted Sept. 14, 2010, at 10:07 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:29 a.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — Heeding a call from residents alarmed at news that three Vinalhaven wind turbines had exceeded noise regulations, Town Councilor Michael Ireland called on fellow councilors Monday to withhold a building permit from the developers of the proposed $130 million Rollins Mountain wind project.

“You are going to be seeing these things from a lot of different angles around town,” Ireland said Monday of the proposal’s 40 turbines, each generating 1½ megawatts, slated for ridgelines in Burlington, Lincoln, Lee and Winn. “I think they will have a devastating impact on land values in Lincoln.

“I think it would be good if we could hold off on having him [Code Enforcement Officer Jerry Davis] issue the permit until the state gets more information on noise controls,” Ireland added, speaking after an executive session and during a final public period in the meeting where councilors discuss ideas to be placed on the next meeting’s agenda.

Ireland’s wife, Councilor Marscella Ireland, seconded his idea. The rest of the council and Town Manager Lisa Goodwin found it repetitive or unworkable.

The Lincoln Planning Board approved the project on Dec. 1, 2008, and subsequent appeals filed by the Friends of Lincoln Lakes group have been rejected, they said.

As of Tuesday, Davis said he had not issued the permit to First Wind of Massachusetts, the project’s backer. Goodwin said she would not discuss the issue with the town’s attorneys, an idea that had been floated by Ireland but rejected by other councilors.

“I don’t think it’s plausible, because we will end up in the lawsuit,” Goodwin said Tuesday of Ireland’s idea. “The council isn’t the issuing authority of the permit. If they [councilors] had the authority, like with victualer’s licenses, that would be different.”

Councilors Rod Carr and Samuel Clay said Ireland’s argument was essentially a rehash of the planning board debate of two years ago. The council opted not to place the item on the next meeting’s agenda.

In Vinalhaven, wind turbine noise consultant Warren L. Brown wrote the Maine Department of Environmental Protection last week that after studying the three Vinalhaven turbines, he found “a significant body of consistent meteorological and sound data indicating sound levels greater than applicable limits” generated by the turbines.

Neighbors have complained that the turbines have caused many sleepless nights.

Fox Island Wind CEO George Baker, whose company operates the turbines, said Tuesday that his experts dispute the findings of Brown, a DEP consultant, but that the dispute may be difficult to resolve.

State law sets a 45-decibel limit. Baker says his experts believe it was ambient noise from wind rustling through trees that exceeded 45 decibels, not the turbines themselves.

Members of the Friends of Lincoln Lakes asked that the permits not be issued when he spoke during the public speaking section of the council meeting on Monday. Besides Vinalhaven, they mentioned wind farms in Freedom and Mars Hill that they said had exceeded noise standards.

In a statement, Friends attorney Lynne Williams said that two town residents would petition the Board of Environmental Protection to revoke or suspend the Rollins Mountain’s DEP permit.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.

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