Clifton planning board chair declines to review new wind farm plan, cites pending court case

Paul Fuller
Paul Fuller photo
Paul Fuller
Posted Nov. 12, 2013, at 3:54 p.m.
Paula Kelso
Paula Kelso
Peter Beckford (left) and his wife talk during their appellate hearing against Pisgah Mountain LLC at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013
Carter F. McCall | BDN
Peter Beckford (left) and his wife talk during their appellate hearing against Pisgah Mountain LLC at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013

CLIFTON, Maine — Bangor developer Paul Fuller and his Pisgah Mountain wind farm partners recently submitted a second plan for their proposed industrial wind farm to the town, but the planning board declined last week to look at it, Chairman Eric Johns said Tuesday.

“I told them not to open the box,” he said, referring to planners.

The planning board voted to table their review of the new submittal from Pisgah Mountain until after a Penobscot County Superior Court judge rules on whether the first wind farm plan submitted by Fuller and his partners can go forward.

The newest application addresses all of the concerns raised by Superior Court Justice Andrew Horton, as well as Peter and Julie Beckford, who operate a perennial farm on nearby Rebel Hill Road and have sued to stop the project, according to Fuller.

“We prepared a new permit application that meets all the requirements of the new Clifton land use ordinance,” the developer said. “We answered all their questions and met all the criteria.”

The Clifton Planning Board approved a five-turbine wind farm on Pisgah Mountain two years ago under Pisgah Mountain LLC, but the $25 million project has been stalled by the Beckfords’ appeal to the town’s board of appeals and the subsequent lawsuit.

Horton heard another round of oral arguments last week regarding the wind farm that features five Vestas V90-1.8 MW wind turbines that reportedly will generate enough electricity to supply 3,000-4,000 Maine homes.

“The judge said he would be back to us soon,” Johns said. “We’re just going to wait until this case is decided. Then we’ll know where to go from there.”

Johns said planners “are not going to review another wind farm … until this court case is adjudicated, until this court case is done.”

The newly submitted industrial wind farm plan is for a similar project at the same location, said Johns and Fuller.

“Why would I want to put myself through this again without knowing the judge’s decision?” the planning board chairman said, referring to the four years of work since the wind farm project was first proposed to the town.

Horton, a business and consumer court judge, affirmed most of the planning board’s October 2011 decision, but requested more information about potential low-frequency sound violations, tower heights, required narratives and special iso-contour maps, and an excessive noise penalty standard used.

Former planning board member Paula Kelso, who was on the panel when the town’s land use ordinance was updated with a 28-page wind farm section and who has been vocal in her opposition of the project since her departure from the board, said Tuesday that she opened the box and reviewed the second proposed Pisgah Mountain wind farm plan.

“He now asks for a waiver for the submission requirements for iso-contour maps,” she said Tuesday, referring to Fuller’s newest plan. “It looks like they’re using the same sound study. There is an additional bird study … other than that I didn’t see anything new.”

Fuller said there is a lot more to the new plan than just an additional bird study, including updated sound data that aligns with the town’s wind farm ordinance, which has been amended to be more strict in the time since the original plan was submitted in 2010.

Johns said waiting up to a couple months for Horton’s decision “is the prudent course of action” and would not hurt any future project plans. He added he hopes the judge makes his decision before the end of the year.

“If he doesn’t get back to us by January, I might have to make a different decision [regarding the second submitted plan],” the planning board chairman said.

Fuller said if Horton finds in their favor, “it will be one step forward,” but if he finds in favor of the Beckfords, the second submittal is the partnership’s backup plan.

The developer also added that if Horton issues a finding in support of the wind farm, he believes, the Beckfords will push to have the case go before the state’s supreme court.

“I don’t believe for a minute, when the decision is made, that will be the end of it,” Fuller said.

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