JONESPORT, Maine — A divided gathering of voters for a special town meeting narrowly defeated a proposed temporary moratorium on new wind energy projects in the coastal fishing village Tuesday evening.
The measure, which would not have impacted two wind energy projects already approved by town officials, was defeated 24-22 by a paper ballot vote.
The decision was not without a bit of drama, however. It was the second vote on the question that resulted in the proposed moratorium being defeated. Minutes earlier, the first balloting ended in a 23-23 tie, and town officials decided to put the question to a second vote.
The votes were surprising because, although the wind projects had generated some controversy, there was no debate or discussion on the proposed moratorium during the special town meeting.
The two projects previously approved by town officials are small in scale, comprising no more than three to five wind turbines.
The article that was the subject of the vote would have imposed a 180-day moratorium on any new projects, allowing town officials time to draft additional regulations for wind energy projects if they chose.
“It has absolutely nothing to do with the two projects” that are going forward, William “Bimbo” Look, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, told the audience before the voting.
Look said afterward that he was not surprised by the outcome.
It is somewhat of a moot point, he explained. It is highly unlikely that any additional wind energy projects could be sited in the town, Look indicated, because of the power line infrastructure and other factors.
“It didn’t matter at all,” he said of the proposed moratorium.
At the same time, town officials could still proceed with drafting additional regulations for wind energy projects if they wish although any new rules ultimately would have to be approved by voters.
The town’s planning board requested the Board of Selectmen to put the moratorium measure on the ballot at a special town meeting, and the selectmen agreed. The proposal would have imposed a 180-day moratorium on any new wind energy projects — a moratorium that the selectmen would have been empowered to extend for additional 180-days period.
Two companies, one of them made up of members of a Jonesport family, plan to 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.
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.