May 22, 2018
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Cell towers, wind turbines on hold in Penobscot

By Rich Hewitt, BDN Staff

PENOBSCOT, Maine — Voters at the annual town meeting have approved two moratoriums that will give the town time to develop ordinances to regulate communications towers and wind turbines.

There has been commercial interest in such construction, particularly in communications towers, according to Code Enforcement Officer Judy Jenkins, and the town’s existing land use regulations include nothing to guide the siting of such structures.

Jenkins told voters that the town already has had calls from three cell phone companies expressing interest in putting up communications towers in the town.

“They were all very excited that we didn’t have an ordinance,” she said. “All we have is a 20-foot setback in the ordinance. The planning board determined that we needed time so we could write an ordinance to protect all of us.”

The moratorium ordinance on industrial wind turbines applies to commercial towers higher than 40 feet. The ordinance noted that the effect of wind power or windmill development in the town has not yet been considered and that the experience of other towns in Maine and the country “points to the need to examine the issue carefully.”

Many local communities are having second thoughts about having wind turbines erected in their towns. According to previous reports, opposition is growing against proposed wind farms in western Maine and noise from the turbines has become an issue on Vinalhaven, where New England’s largest community-owned wind farm has begun generating power.

The towns of Dixmont in Penobscot County and Jackson in Waldo County, have adopted stiff ordinances on the siting of wind turbines, requiring a 1-mile setback for the towers.

In Hancock County, the towns of Orland, Blue Hill, Brooklin and Stonington also are reviewing moratorium ordinances on wind towers.

One Penobscot resident noted that satellites are being more widely used in communications and raised the concern that the towers may become obsolete.

Jenkins noted that many ordinances require the owners of communications towers to carry a yearly bond equal to the cost of removing the towers.

“Those are renewable every year to make sure that the towns don’t get stuck with the cost,” she said. “Some ordinances also require that the owners carry adequate insurance.”

The moratorium on cell towers and wind turbines prohibits the construction, operation or expansion of any tower and also prohibits the planning board from receiving, processing or accepting applications for those uses. Each moratorium will be in effect for 180 days, beginning upon its adoption, and each can be extended for an additional 180 days.

The extension is not automatic and requires a public hearing before the town’s Board of Selectmen could vote to extend the moratorium.

Although Jenkins said the planning board already has been reviewing ordinances from other towns and that they planned to develop the ordinances as fast as they can, she said it can take as much as a year to develop an ordinance to present to voters.

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