FORT KENT, Maine — This northern Maine town became the most recent to enact a wind ordinance after residents approved the new municipal regulation basing industrial turbine setbacks on sound levels rather than geographic distance.
About 200 voters acted on the proposed ordinance during the annual town meeting Monday night, the only time by law when ordinances may be approved or amended.
According to the ordinance written by a municipally appointed wind study committee and approved by the town’s planning board and Town Council, “sound levels of commercial wind energy facilities shall not exceed a maximum of 45 dBA [decibels] measured at non-participating landowners’ property lines and shall not exceed a maximum of 42 dBA measured at occupied buildings on non-participating landowners’ property.”
The ordinance also stipulates that any commercial wind energy facilities be sited and designed to avoid “unreasonable adverse shadow flicker effect” on any occupied building located on a nonparticipating landowner’s property.
Included in the proposed ordinance is language governing turbine size, visual appearance, overspeed controls and decommissioning.
For some residents, however, the wording did not go far enough. A petition drive by the group Citizens for Responsible Wind Development, or CROWD, to place an alternative proposal on the annual meeting agenda was denied by the Town Council earlier this month.
“The council determined proper zoning procedures — as determined by state statute — had not been followed,” Town Manager Don Guimond said. “They also found there was not time to follow those procedures before the town meeting.”
All zoning changes, Guimond said, must go through a prescribed planning board and public hearing process, which, he added, the wind power ordinance on the town warrant had done.
The CROWD proposal decreased that sound limit to 35 dBA and would have required the planning board to obtain independent sound analysis to ensure adequate sound modeling.
Supporters of CROWD speaking at the town meeting argued against the planning board’s ordinance, saying it did more to help big business wind development than protect residents of Fort Kent.
“This is a beautiful part of the world we live in and I can’t sit back and watch our hillsides be taken over by out-of-state businesses whose only goal is to rake in money,” said Joel Desjardins, town councilor and supporter of the CROWD-generated proposed ordinance. “The planning board’s ordinance is not to protect the town but to protect the business interests of wind industries.”
Planning board member Danny Nicholas did not agree and warned that voting the proposal down would leave Fort Kent at the mercy of the state when it came to wind development.
“I’d rather have local control than let the state control it,” Nicholas said. “If we have an ordinance in place then we can work to amend it if we want; if we don’t have one then there is nothing to work on.”
Towns with no wind development ordinances are subject to state wind zoning regulations, enforced by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
After the final warrant article, Nicholas invited members of CROWD and other interested parties to attend the April 15 meeting of the planning board to begin discussions on the newly adopted ordinance and the possibility of including some of the CROWD recommendations in future amendments.
In other municipal business, residents approved appropriations representing a 1.5 mill tax increase over the current 14.35 mills.
“This is a relatively flat budget,” Guimond said. “But revenue decreases is what’s driving the mill increase.”
The town manager said it was difficult to predict the exact change in Fort Kent’s mill rate as the school budget is not voted on until June, and the town has not completed valuation on new construction.
Two citizen driven petitions on the warrant were split, with voters opting to fund a $5,000 request from Lonesome Pine Ski Trails despite the town budget committee’s recommendation of zero funding.
Residents did agree to the committee’s recommendation to appropriate $14,000 to the Northern Aroostook Regional Airport Authority instead of that organization’s request for $26,370.
Earlier that day Dr. Priscilla Staples and Paul Berube were elected to the Fort Kent Town Council.