Cohocton Wind Watch: Lincoln residents push for wind moratorium
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lincoln residents push for wind moratorium

LINCOLN, Maine — A group of residents again pressed the new Town Council on Monday night for a 180-day moratorium on wind farms as their reaction to a Massachusetts developer’s proposal for a $130 million wind farm.

After new Councilor Marcella Ireland and returning Councilor Samuel Clay were sworn in, the council took no action on residents’ claims that First Wind of Massachusetts’ farm would harm health, lower land values and ruin the beauty of Rollins Mountain, the range of hills running from Burlington through Lincoln to Lee and Winn that the proposed farm would be built upon if approved.

“There must be a reason why so many towns in the United States and Europe are holding moratoriums on wind farms,” resident Joan Goodwin said. “A huge chunk of land within our towns will be forever blighted by this.”

About 80 people attended the meeting, held at Mattanawcook Academy to accommodate the crowd.

Councilor Michael Ireland considered seeking a moratorium but did not pursue one Monday because he did not want to impede the planning board’s review of the Rollins Mountain project. First Wind formally applied to the board Friday for permits to build the windmills in Lincoln, listing the total cost of the project at $130 million, $10 million more than town officials previously had estimated.

The board’s review process begins next Monday. It is required to produce a decision in 30 days, planning board chairman Peter Phinney said. The other towns, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also must approve the project, First Wind officials have said. The DEP application is due to be filed within two weeks.

Ireland did not rule out seeking a moratorium. The council is due to review the First Wind farm at Mars Hill on Saturday, he said.

Attorney Timothy Woodcock of Eaton Peabody, the town’s legal counsel, doubted a moratorium could occur. Under state law, moratoriums are limited to 180 days. They must be used only to prevent a shortage or overburdening of public facilities or because existing plans and laws are “inadequate to prevent serious public harm,” the statute states.

The board’s recommendation against a moratorium and opinion that the town’s ordinances were adequate for a review would undercut any moratorium effort, Woodcock said. The council also must pass a moratorium with an agenda listing, public hearing and majority vote.

Several residents spoke for the project, saying they favored clean energy, lower taxes and the increased electricity capacity it promises. They said the project would be a boon to local businesses and that First Winds’ other projects at Stetson Mountain and Mars Hill already have added hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars to the local economy.

First Wind officials, who attended the meeting, listed 30 town businesses as among the nearly 150 statewide that have received new customers and money from the project.

Those town businesses include hardware stores, restaurants, motels, auto dealers, Lincoln Pulp & Paper Co. LLC., W.T. Gardner & Sons, Larry Hamm Construction Co., Chester Forest Products, Hogan Tire and Ramsay Welding and Machinery.

First Wind’s projects have boosted Maine’s economy by $50 million, said Matt Kearns, the company’s vice president of business development for New England.

“I don’t know what the total impact to this town will be from this project, but it seems to be the primary beneficiaries will be the Gardner and HC Haynes companies,” resident Tate Aylward said. “If this benefits them, it does benefit the town to some extent.”

Under all scenarios town officials are considering, at least $400,000 in tax revenues would be generated annually by the project, town Economic Development Director Ruth Birtz said.



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