Clifton farmers file appeal on wind farm project

Peter Beckford and his wife, Julie, hold a press conference inside their greenhouse on their property in Clifton on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011. The Beckfords are filing an appeal with the town of Clifton, opposing the Pisgah Mountian wind project.
Peter Beckford and his wife, Julie, hold a press conference inside their greenhouse on their property in Clifton on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011. The Beckfords are filing an appeal with the town of Clifton, opposing the Pisgah Mountian wind project. Buy Photo
Posted Nov. 10, 2011, at 8:12 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 11, 2011, at 9:34 a.m.

CLIFTON, Maine — Twenty-three years ago, Peter and Julie Beckford bought a nearly 60-acre wooded spread off a stretch of Route 180 known locally as Rebel Hill Road and began pursing their version of the American Dream.

Over the years, they built a home and established Rebel Hill Farm, an organic perennial flower and maple sugar business. They raised their sons on the farm and grow almost all of their food there. They have added a greenhouse and several other small buildings, including small cabins a 10-minute walk from their house used as a writing studio and space for farm apprentices and other guests.

Now the Beckfords are facing the likelihood that a local business partnership, Pisgah Mountain LLC, soon will begin construction of a $25 million five-turbine wind farm on nearby Pisgah Mountain.

The partnership already has the key permissions in hand as well as approval from residents and expects to have financing in place shortly, Mike Smith of Bangor, one of the project partners, said Thursday.

The Beckfords say the wind farm would harm their health, happiness and quality of life and they intend to do everything in their power to stop it. On Wednesday, they submitted an 11-point appeal to the town’s board of appeals, the couple said during a news conference in a greenhouse at their farm Thursday afternoon.

Board members will consider the appeal on Nov. 30. If they conclude it has merit they must schedule a public hearing within 35 days.

“Rebel Hill Farm will not be moved — not by Pisgah Mountain LLC, not by Camden National Bank and not by the Clifton town government,” Peter Beckford said in announcing the appeal, which alleges that the planning board made several errors in approving the wind farm.

“Our land is our home. We work here. We farm here. We recreate here and we restore our souls here,” he said during a news conference in a greenhouse that is part of the family’s organic perennial flower farm.

“We are not stepping aside to allow these interests to pollute our land, endanger our health, ruin the natural beauty of our town and cost us our home and our jobs,” he said. “If this development is ever going to happen, they are going to have to follow the law and that has not been done.”

In the appeal, the couple alleges that the town’s land use ordinance lacks standards for determining or limiting tower height and that the ordinance pertaining to industrial wind facilities is void and illegal because it conflicts with the town’s comprehensive plan.

They also say the planning board erred in accepting several reports and emergency and other plans and erred in deciding not to consider their business and pre-existing cabins as protected or occupied structures when applying the 4,000-foot setback.

Smith, however, said the partnership has reviewed the appeal and believes it is without merit. He said all of the issues the Beckfords raised already have been raised and addressed.

“There’s nothing new here,” he said.

Julie Beckford said neither she nor her husband are interested in monetary compensation.

“There’s no dollar amount,” she said. “We love our farm. It’s priceless.”

The couple said if their appeal is denied, they will will take their fight to the next level, which is Penobscot County Superior Court.

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