Jonesport to vote on moratorium on new wind energy projects

Posted Nov. 29, 2013, at 3:59 p.m.

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JONESPORT, Maine — Jonesport voters will gather at a special town meeting next week to decide on a proposal that would impose a temporary moratorium on new wind energy projects.

Officials of the picturesque fishing village have approved two small projects to allow wind turbines to generate power, but the process generated some controversy and opposition.

The town’s planning board asked the Board of Selectmen to put a moratorium on the ballot at a special town meeting, and the selectmen agreed. The proposal would impose a 180-day moratorium on any new projects, and the moratorium could be extended by the selectmen for additional 180-day periods. The special town meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Dec. 3, at Jonesport Elementary School.

The planning board “wanted to make sure we’re doing it right,” said Selectman Dwight Alley, discussing the proposed moratorium on Friday.

Town officials may draft and adopt an ordinance during the moratorium to further regulate wind power projects, noted Alley.

The two projects already authorized by town officials would not be affected by the moratorium.

Nevertheless, the projects have generated some controversy, acknowledged Alley, “and some of that may be fear of the unknown. Some of it may not.”

“I personally think [the wind power projects] would be a good thing for Jonesport,” Alley said.

Two companies, one of them made up of members of a Jonesport family, would erect the tall commercial wind turbines off Mason Bay Road, the stretch of Route 187 skirting Englishman Bay. Each project would have three to five turbines.

Turner-based Kean Energy would put turbines on land owned by local residents David and Priscilla Look on a hill west of Mason Bay Road. The company also is planning a similar project off Route 191 in Lubec. Company officials could not be reached for comment Friday.

The second company, Mason Bay Wind, is owned by members of the Beale family, which plans to erect the wind turbines on their land, a parcel southwest of Mason Bay.

Although the project has been approved by town officials for up to five turbines, the company now is seeking state approval for only three, John Beale, who runs the business with his brother, Benjamin, and his father, Raymond, said Friday. That decision was made after consultations with neighbors and out of deference to the movement behind the moratorium, he said. Three wind turbines would generate enough electricity to provide power to about 3,700 homes, according to Beale.

Mason Bay Wind expects to receive its permit from the state Department of Environmental Quality in late winter or spring, but construction work and installation of the wind turbines likely would not begin until the spring or summer of 2015, according to Beale.

Town officials approved the Beale family’s plans earlier this year. Keane Energy’s project was approved a few years ago, but the company came back to town officials earlier this year year to renew its permit.

Beale downplayed the significance of the moratorium because it is unlikely that Jonesport could support any additional wind power projects, he said. “There really isn’t room for a lot more expansion,” he observed, because of the proximity of other potential wind energy sites to houses and other obstacles. The sites pinned down by his company and Kean Energy “are the only spots” suitable for wind energy projects, he said.

His company is not opposed to the proposed moratorium since it would not be affected, said Beale. “It allows everybody to take a deep breath,” he said of the proposed moratorium.

“I think a lot of the concerns people have about wind power have actually been alleviated in recent years,” said Beale. For example, concerns about noise from wind turbines have been addressed because new designs have reduced noise levels. In addition, new state regulations require longer setbacks.

How the Mason Bay Wind project would be taxed by the town has not been finalized, indicated Alley and Beale. The normal real estate tax rate for business property would generate about $80,000 annually to the town, but Beale said his company has made a proposal that would generate more than twice that amount of revenue for Jonesport.

“We’re expecting that it will have a pretty significant impact on the bottom line of the town,” said Beale.

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