Clifton voters approve amended land use rules for Pisgah Mountain wind project

Clifton residents cast their votes Tuesday at the Town of Clifton Municipal Office.
Ashley L. Conti | BDN
Clifton residents cast their votes Tuesday at the Town of Clifton Municipal Office. Buy Photo
Posted July 01, 2014, at 9:10 p.m.
Last modified July 01, 2014, at 10:38 p.m.
Peter Beckford holds up signs opposing the land use ordinance amendments on Tuesday at the Town of Clifton Municipal Office.
Ashley L. Conti | BDN
Peter Beckford holds up signs opposing the land use ordinance amendments on Tuesday at the Town of Clifton Municipal Office. Buy Photo
Deanna Lee (left) waves to passing cars while showing her support of the land use ordinance amendments with Jane Logan on Tuesday at the Town of Clifton Municipal Office.
Ashley L. Conti | BDN
Deanna Lee (left) waves to passing cars while showing her support of the land use ordinance amendments with Jane Logan on Tuesday at the Town of Clifton Municipal Office. Buy Photo

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CLIFTON, Maine — Residents voted 210-138 in favor of a series of land use ordinance amendments prompted by a controversial plan to develop a five-turbine wind farm atop Pisgah Mountain.

In the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s vote, proponents of the land use ordinance amendments said the changes would strengthen the town’s already stringent wind energy rules to provide more protections to residents.

Pisgah Mountain LLC’s Paul Fuller said in a recent interview that he and his development partners supported the amendments.

“It corrects the technical flaws,” he said last month. “The judge said that a waiver wouldn’t work and to go back and change the land use code, and that’s exactly what they did.”

“This is a great victory for the town of Clifton, and it’s a great victory for Pisgah Mountain LLC,” Fuller said Tuesday night of the referendum results.

He said that Tuesday’s vote was the sixth so far in connection with the wind farm project and that the partnership between Pisgah Mountain LLC and the town had been successful at each juncture.

Fuller said Tuesday’s vote was particularly difficult because opponents had spread “misinformation and lies” about the project.

“The opponents put out all kinds of ridiculous things, but the public ferreted out the truth and the truth prevailed,” he said.

Rebel Hill Farm owners Peter and Julie Beckford, who are a part of the Clifton Task Force on Wind, opposed the amendments.

Peter Beckford said that the changes “gut our wind ordinance in favor of the developer, and which [we think] are illegal.”

After the vote results were announced, Julie Beckford had this to say:

“The town of Clifton is not above the law. We will hold them accountable. The town’s attorney advised against parts of this new ordinance on legal grounds. The Clifton Planning Board disregarded his advice. It’s too bad our town government is dragging us into a legal quagmire.”

“I think we did awesome. For voting on July 1, with both town boards pushing for this as hard as they could with the developer, I think we did awesome,” Peter Beckford said. “There were 138 people who turned out to say they don’t want this. They’re not fooled, and they don’t trust the Clifton Planning Board.

“This is not over,” he added.

The amendments remove some portions of the 28-page wind farm ordinance and add new sound restrictions near homes. Among other things, they eliminate different day and night sound standards, making all the sound standards the same all the time, and create new sound limits of 45 decibels at property lines and 35 decibels within 100 feet of sensitive receptors such as homes.

Town planners approved the five-turbine Pisgah Mountain wind farm two years ago, but the Beckfords prevailed in a lawsuit against the town and project partners in December, when Superior Court Justice Andrew Horton found in their favor and said the planning board did not follow the Clifton Land Use Code.

The Pisgah Mountain developers filed an appeal in January to the state’s highest court to overturn the judge’s decision.

The wind farm partners have an agreement with ISO-New England, the six-state power grid operator, to connect to nearby Line 66, which has the capacity to handle the 9 megawatts of electricity that will be generated by the five turbines, Fuller has said.

Tuesday’s vote was the town’s second regarding wind farms in less than a month.

In a June 10 referendum put forth by the Clifton Task Force on Wind, residents were asked if they wanted to increase the setbacks for wind turbines to 4,000 feet from property lines instead of homes. The proposal was defeated, 230-177.

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