Maine supreme court won’t reconsider Clifton farmers’ appeal of wind farm permit

Posted Feb. 19, 2015, at 6:30 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 19, 2015, at 7:56 p.m.

CLIFTON, Maine — The state’s highest court on Thursday dealt another blow to a Clifton couple’s attempt to stop the development of a $25 million wind farm near their property.

Shortly after the Maine Supreme Judicial Court decided that Julie and Peter Beckford had filed their appeal to stop a permitted wind farm on nearby Pisgah Mountain five days too late, the two Rebel Hill Road farmers filed another appeal asking for reconsideration.

On Thursday, the supreme court denied the Beckfords’ motion for reconsideration.

Despite the decision, the Beckfords say the legal fight isn’t over. Earlier this year they filed a motion with the lower business and consumer court seeking to amend their original complaint against the town. That motion has yet to be ruled on.

The supreme court ruled Dec. 31 the Clifton couple filed their complaint against the town beyond the appeal deadline, which vacated an earlier judgment in the Beckfords’ favor.

Two weeks later, the Beckfords filed a motion to have the supreme court reconsider its Dec. 31 decision.

“Your motion has been reviewed and considered by the available members of the panel that decided the original appeal,” the court order filed Thursday states. “The motion is denied.”

The Beckfords’ second motion with the business court asking to amend their original complaint claims “illegal” work has been done and asks that developer Paul Fuller of Bangor and his partners not be allowed to use the area where the work was done, Peter Beckford said Thursday.

The Clifton Planning Board unanimously approved the five-turbine wind farm in October 2011, and the board of appeals voted unanimously on Jan. 25, 2012, to deny a subsequent appeal by the Beckfords. The Beckfords then filed a lawsuit, against the town on March 15, 2012, which was ultimately denied by the supreme court because of the missed deadline.

Pisgah Mountain developers got a permit from the Clifton code enforcement officer on Dec. 12, to create a test pit. The Beckfords claim, in their supplemental motion to the Superior Court filed Jan. 14, that the test pits created were actually the start of the turbine project and were built to qualify for tax credits.

“It is clear that Pisgah was attempting to show a start on construction in the 2014 calendar year so it can qualify for federal subsidy money known as the Production Tax Credit or the Investment Tax Credit,” the Beckfords claim.

The work was done on or about Dec. 16 and “went well beyond the single ‘test pit’ which was authorized,” the couple states.

“For relief, the Beckfords ask The Business and Consumer Court to declare that any site work that has been done by Pisgah Mountain LLC to commence construction in 2014 is void and illegal and cannot be used for any purposes that would benefit Pisgah,” the Beckfords ask through their plea.

Bill Devoe, attorney for Fuller, responded to the Beckfords’ supplemental plea by saying the Beckfords’ original appeal was never properly filed and therefore the couple have no legal ground to stand on.

“For all practical purposes, there is no case before the business court, and the permit issued by the Clifton Planning Board has been valid since the day it was issued,” Devoe said. “The Beckfords’ motion complaining about activities in 2014 is of no legal consequence or effect. The case is over.”

There are now three turbine footings in place on Pisgah Mountain and once the snow is gone, the work will continue with possible turbine installation later this year or next year, Fuller said.

“We’re off to the races. We’re ready to get all the wheels on the bus,” the developer said.

For Fuller and his partners, the next step in the process is to order to turbines and to select an investor.

“We have to choose between two investors. Both have experience in wind,” Fuller said. “We’re not going to release the names, but we’ll make that decision in the next couple of weeks and will let you known then.”

 

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