Group moving ahead with Clifton wind farm

Posted Nov. 04, 2010, at 12:43 a.m.

CLIFTON, Maine — A day after voters opted not to adopt tougher rules for wind farms, an area developer confirmed plans to proceed with a project proposed for Pisgah Mountain.

Residents’ 258-183 vote Tuesday against tightening up rules that some say already are among the strictest in Maine removed a major hurdle for the proposed $25 million, five-turbine wind farm, which local officials say would generate an estimated $295,000 a year in property taxes.

“We’re finishing up the permitting process,” Paul Fuller of Pisgah Mountain LLC said Wednesday. Once the project is permitted and financed, he said, the company will work with the state’s leading turbine construction contractor to get the wind farm built.

“We’d like to move on this as quickly as possible,” Fuller said, adding that he and the company’s other partners hope to have the necessary permits in hand by early next year and to be commissioned as an electricity producer by next November.

Opponents of the project, however, say the fight isn’t over.

“This is not done,” resident Peter Beckford said Wednesday. “That vote didn’t approve the project,” he said, noting that the developers of the proposed wind farm still must obtain permits from the town and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, as well as project financing.

Beckford, who owns a nearby perennial farm with his wife, Julie, said that he and other residents who are members of the Clifton Taskforce on Wind remain concerned about the effects the wind farm could have on their health, quality of life and property values.

As Beckford sees it, Tuesday’s tally means “there are 183 people [in Clifton] who don’t want this, even though they were promised lower taxes. They said quality of life and supporting their neighbors were more important.”

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.

The 21-page set of amendments voters rejected Tuesday 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.

Adopted by voters 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.

In the weeks leading to Tuesday’s vote, town officials, including selectmen and planning board members, said they opposed the amendments and urged residents to vote against them, saying some of the proposed changes are illegal or unconstitutional based on a review by town attorney David Szewczyk and the Maine Municipal Association.

“That’s a lie,” Beckford said Wednesday, saying that other Maine towns, including Dixmont, Jackson, Montville, Dedham and Thorndike, “all have tougher rules that protect the citizens. Our rules protect the developers.”

In addition to Paul and Sandy Fuller, Pisgah Mountain LLC includes Michael Smith of Bangor, Gail and Wally Kimball of Veazie and John and Eileen Williams of Clifton, former owners of the project site, Fuller said.

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