ELLSWORTH, Maine — Having received multiple requests to hold a public hearing on a proposed commercial wind farm in Hancock County, the state Land Use Regulation Commission has scheduled two days for such sessions.
The public meetings for the Blue Sky East LLC proposal, which would result in a large-scale wind farm being erected in Eastbrook and neighboring Township 16, have been set for Monday, May 16, and Tuesday, May 17, according to LURC director Catherine Carroll. The meetings likely will be held at the Ramada Inn in Ellsworth, she said Thursday. She said LURC plans to make a formal announcement about the hearings in the next several days.
Blue Sky East, which is a subsidiary of First Wind, has submitted a development application to erect 19 turbines with a total generating capacity of 34.2 megawatts in Township 16. Each of the 1.8-megawatt turbines would have a total height, including its blades, of 476 feet, according to information posted on LURC’s website.
The firm has not specified how many turbines it plans to erect in Eastbrook, where voters approved a local wind turbine ordinance in January, but First Wind officials have indicated the overall project could have a total capacity of 80 megawatts.
Carroll said Thursday that LURC will hold three public sessions over the two days it meets in Ellsworth. She said public hearings, at which anyone can speak, likely will be held on the evenings of both May 16 and 17. She said another session, which will be open to the public but at which only the applicant and intervenors will be allowed to speak, will be held during the day on the 17th.
“People can submit comments now” if they do so in writing,” Carroll said.
Contact information for submitting comments can be found on the LURC website. Carroll said the public comment period will extend beyond the public meetings planned in Ellsworth. Podcasts of the Ellsworth sessions will be posted on the LURC website soon after they are held, she said.
“Probably toward the end of May [the public comment period] will close,” Carroll said.
The Hancock County commissioners, Natural Resources Council of Maine, representatives of Citizens’ Task Force on Wind Power, and Bar Harbor attorney Lynne Williams, who represents Concerned Citizens of Rural Hancock County, have requested intervenor status in the application review process, according to LURC officials.
Several Eastbrook officials and residents have expressed support for the development concept, saying that such a facility would generate a significant amount of revenue for the town, which has fewer than 400 year-round residents. Other residents have raised concerns about how the presence of the turbines might affect their properties, quality of life and wildlife.
Some landowners in Eastbrook and Township 16 raised their concerns in letters and e-mails they sent to LURC officials to request the public hearings.
Blue Hill resident Oliver Carr indicated in a Feb. 18 letter to LURC that his family acquired approximately 7,000 acres next to Eastbrook so they could conserve it. He wrote that erecting turbines would lead to the “despoilation” of Bull and Heifer hills, where the turbines would be located.
“Surrounding properties will be devalued, and the promised short run financial benefit will not be sustained,” Carr wrote. “The only winner will be the manufacturer of the turbines and his agents.”
Eastbrook resident Kathleen Donohoe indicated in a Feb. 22 letter to LURC that the standards for erecting turbines in Township 16 are less restrictive than the ordinance adopted by Eastbrook voters in January. At least one of the towers proposed for Township 16 would be within one mile of her house on Sugar Hill Road, she wrote.
“Any future plans for the bulk of my property will potentially be affected audibly, vibrationally, or visually by the towers,” Donohoe indicated. “I am writing to ask that you please consider applying the regulations from Eastbrook’s newly adopted ordinance to the project in Township 16.”