August 22, 2008
Debate Fierce on Proposed Zoning Change, Wind Farm
By Terry Karkos
ROXBURY - Discussion was vigorous and emotional at Thursday night's public hearing on a proposed zoning change allowing wind turbines to be built atop town ridges.More than 70 people attended the more than two-hour meeting in sweltering heat and humidity at the town office conference room. Most came to pepper town planners and Brunswick-based Independence Wind LLC principal Robert Gardiner with more questions and concerns than they had answers.
The proposal would create a mountain zone district, which would include all areas of the mountain ridge comprising portions of Record Hill, Flathead Mountain, Mine Notch, Partridge Peak and North and South Twin mountains at or above an elevation of 1,500 feet. The district would only allow wind energy facilities to be built within it.
Independence Wind partnered with area landowner Bayroot LLC and its land manager, Wagner Forest Management in Lyme, N.H., to form Record Hill Wind LLC, which wants to develop wind power on a portion of Bayroot's lands in Roxbury.
Many people said they felt that both planners and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection were failing to protect town interests by allowing Independence Wind to draft the zoning change rather than planners.
Year-round Roxbury Pond resident Linda Kuras read a statement from Farmington attorney Frank M. Underkuffler, wherein he cast serious doubt on the legality of Roxbury's zoning ordinance.
Kuras, a member of Concerned Citizens to Save Roxbury, said her group hired Underkuffler to help address their concerns.
Underkuffler, she said, wrote that under Maine law, a zoning ordinance must be consistent with the town's comprehensive plan.
If a town doesn't have a comprehensive plan that is consistent with the proposed use of the town's mountain ridges for industrial wind power development, the legality of the town's zoning ordinance as purportedly amended by a proposed zoning change would be in serious doubt, Kuras stated.
Concerned Citizens also accused planners of ignoring or attempting to circumvent the comprehensive plan and in another statement asked why the Roxbury planners didn't take responsibility for reviewing such projects and thereby protect interests of residents.
They also questioned why Roxbury's comprehensive plan was ignored, who decided that 400-foot-tall wind turbines are not industrial structures, and why there is no mandated environmental impact statement for the project.
Another member, Roxbury Pond landowner Tom Currivan built and displayed what he said is a scale model diorama of one of Record Hill Wind's proposed 22 wind turbines atop a Roxbury ridge.
Currivan pressed Gardiner for answers to questions Gardiner at one point declined to answer, stating that if he didn't know the truth about something, he wasn't going to respond.
At several points during the debates, moderated by state Rep. John Patrick, D-Rumford, planners appeared at a loss to explain their actions in drafting the proposed zoning change.
It was also unclear after the meeting if planners will change the proposal based on comments from Thursday's meeting, which would require a second hearing, or stay with it as written and send it to a special town meeting vote. That is expected to be decided at the board's next meeting this month.
Originally published by Staff Writer.
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