Oakfield residents mull tax increment financing with First Wind

Posted Nov. 17, 2011, at 1:01 p.m.

OAKFIELD, Maine — Voters will decide whether to enter a tax increment financing agreement with First Wind on a new $300 million industrial wind project that would provide the town $16.5 million in benefits over 20 years, Town Manager Dale Morris said Thursday. The site might be the state’s first to entirely employ 3-megawatt turbines.

The benefits include $14.3 million in TIF, or credit enhancement, payments in 20 years and a $600,000 gift from First Wind that would help the company meet the tangible benefits clause of the environmental permit application the Maine Department of Environmental Protection gave First Wind, Morris said.

Though Pleasant Lake property owners have protested the project’s visual impact, among many other things, Morris doubted that the 40-turbine proposal would encounter much opposition.

“The previous vote two years ago passed on a nine-to-one margin,” Morris said Thursday. “There are some turbines that are closer to some homes on [one town road], but the turbines come with noise reduction operations and the town’s consultant didn’t think the noise would have any real impact.”

The meeting will be held at the Oakfield Community Center on Oakfield-Smyrna Road on Monday. A public hearing on the TIF district proposal will occur at 6 p.m., after which votes on six articles will start at 7 p.m., Morris said.

The DEP noted in its permit letter that visual impact was a significant concern to those who contacted it about the project. The department noted that it received 50 comments from property owners on Pleasant Lake expressing concerns related to the visual impact on the lake and other issues.

The Island Falls Lakes Association, which represents more than 120 individuals and households with property on and around Pleasant and Mattawamkeag Lakes, has also voiced opposition to the project.

Members of the association fear the project will have a significant impact on the scenic value of Pleasant Lake if users are able to see and hear the wind farm from the lake.

The project will line the Oakfield foothills of Aroostook County and be the state’s only industrial wind development visible from Interstate 95, First Wind officials have said.

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