County commissioners to consider TIF for Passadumkeag wind project

Posted July 05, 2012, at 11:50 a.m.
Last modified July 05, 2012, at 5:43 p.m.

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BANGOR, Maine — A public hearing on a tax increment financing district for the proposed Passadumkeag Wind Park will be held at 10 a.m.

Tuesday before the Penobscot County commissioners at the historic Penobscot County Courthouse on Hammond Street. It will be held on the second floor of the building.

A TIF with the county would provide the developer, Quantum Utility Generation, an alternative energy company based in Houston, Texas, with tax breaks toward the project in exchange for a portion of resulting revenues, which may be used for a variety of county initiatives totaling $7.8 million over 30 years that would benefit residents in the Unorganized Territory.

If approved, the TIF would be the first in Penobscot County, Commissioner Tom Davis of Kenduskeag said Thursday.

“We are neutral on the project itself,” he said. “Creating the TIF does not mean we are supporting the project. But, if it is built, we want to make sure the citizens in the Unorganized Territory in the county benefit.”

Those benefits would include improvements to roads, development and maintenance of a system of recreational trails, improvement of fire and emergency medical services, construction of and staffing for a child care center and a scholarship fund for job training for residents.

The proposal would allow the county to finance its upfront contribution to the project by issuing bonds.

Most of the windmills would be built atop Passadumkeag Ridge in Grand Falls, which is just south-southeast of Burlington and Lowell, but some of the project also would be in Summit Township, according to a previously published report.

That section of the county is in Commissioner Stephen Stanley’s district. Stanley, who lives in Medway, said Tuesday that although it would be at least two years before residents would see any financial benefits from the creation of a TIF, it makes sense to create the district now.

“There are pros and cons to wind power,” Stanley said. “I’m neither for nor against this project, but as commissioners, we need to take advantage of what comes across our desks. This will help people in the Unorganized Territory in Penobscot County and only people in the Unorganized Territory.”

The turbines would be 459 feet from base to extended blade tip. Each would generate 3 megawatts of electricity, according to the company’s proposal. Electricity would be collected in a 34.5-kilovolt line to run about 17 miles from Passadumkeag Ridge along Greenfield Road through Summit Township, Greenfield Township and Greenbush.

“Nearly all of this line is in an existing electrical distribution line right-of-way immediately adjacent to an existing road,” the initial proposal to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection stated.

The project would include a substation in Greenbush and a connection to an existing 115-kilovolt transmission line on Greenbush Road.

Some local residents and business owners already have expressed reservations about the project, saying it could detract from the region’s beauty and deter visitors from coming to local camps and lodges.

Bowdoinham resident Chris Jackson, who owns a small parcel on West Lake in Township 3 North District, about six miles from the proposed site, said in March, when the project was announced, that he opposes it.

“This would definitely have a scenic impact,” Jackson said. “The property on the east side of West Lake overlooks Passadumkeag Mountain across the lake.”

Jackson also said he is concerned that the project would have an adverse effect on the nearby Robbins Lumber Conservation Easement, which in 2000 set more than 20,000 acres surrounding Nicatous Lake in eastern Maine in perpetual protection from development or disturbance.

The DEP has scheduled a second public meeting for 7 p.m. Thursday, July 12, at the Greenbush Town Office, 132 Military Road, to get feedback on its review of the project.

The public hearing Tuesday will address the proposed TIF, not the project itself.

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