Clifton nixes changes to land use ordinance

Posted Nov. 03, 2010, at 1:34 a.m.

CLIFTON, Maine — In a local referendum Tuesday, a majority of voters opposed a move to replace the wind turbine portion of the town’s recently enacted land use ordinance, considered the strictest in the state, with an even stricter version.

Residents’ 258-183 vote against the proposal paves the way for a five-turbine wind farm on Pisgah Mountain. If it moves forward, the wind farm would generate approximately $295,000 a year in property taxes.

The $25 million project, which has been in the works for more than a year, drew opposition from a local group.

In an interview before Tuesday’s vote, Peter Beckford, the closest resident to the proposed Pisgah Mountain wind farm and a member of the Clifton Taskforce on Wind, said the project would be “devastating” if allowed to proceed under the town’s existing rules.

Planning board member Bill Rand, however, said he opposed the stricter version because it would have prevented any wind farm project from being permitted in Clifton.

The 21 pages of amendments would have added a property value assurance provision and an ethics clause, set a townwide limit of five turbines and increased setback requirements. It also would have increased the amount in an escrow account set up to cover the cost of any future decommissioning of the turbines.

Had they been adopted by voters, the amendments would have replaced the 26-page industrial wind energy facility rules residents enacted in June.

The town’s current wind farm rules double state standards for ambient sound and more than double setbacks between turbines and homes, said Bangor businessman Paul Fuller, who along with his wife, Sandy, bought 270 acres on Pisgah Mountain for the project.

Town officials, including selectmen and planning board members, were adamantly opposed to the amendments and urged residents to vote no on Tuesday, saying some of the proposed changes are illegal or unconstitutional, based on a review by town attorney David Szewczyk and the Maine Municipal Association.

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