News Feature

Sedgwick
Web exclusive, February 25, 2011
Wind ordinance committee report aired before vote

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by Bette Britt

Known officially as “Town of Sedgwick, Maine, Wind Energy Facilities Ordinance” and appearing in the annual town report as Warrant Article 41, a 25-page document was given an informal hearing on Tuesday, February 22, by those who had worked to produce it.

For residents who didn’t attend, there are copies available at the town office.

With first selectman Nelson Grindal serving as moderator, in case discussion got off track, Nicole Gray introduced committee members seated at the conference table with her: Pete Douvarjo, Peter Neill, Don Holmes and Dr. Ralph Siewers.

Dr. Dennis DeSilvey was unable to be present, and Paul Trowbridge, the sole dissenter when the ordinance was approved by the committee, chose to sit in the audience.

The next sound heard after Gray’s opening words was a recording of wind turbines on Vinalhaven. Made from a porch situated a half-mile away from the turbines, the recording wasn’t “scientific,” said Gray, but the rhythmic whooshing sound made a lasting impression.

Many, if not most, of the questions asked indicated that the sound, and its effects on those hearing it continuously, were a major concern.

Acknowledging differences of opinion about the wind power issue—some favor it and others are opposed to it—Gray said academics and the government cannot agree.

“The main problem is the improper placement of industrial turbines,” she said, going on to explain that the committee was charged with writing an ordinance “that addresses the issues of public health, safety and welfare of the residents of Sedgwick. Our committee did just that while also considering, at great length, the possibility of wind power.”

Part of the presentation on Tuesday evening was an eight-page report of findings dated January 15, 2011. It outlines how much time the committee spent researching the issue and facets of the committee’s work. These indicated the committee’s awareness of international standards.

Use of wind power is by no means new, and lessons learned—such as the effect of sound on health—have as much bearing in Maine as they do in other parts of the world the report said

The ordinance, which will be voted on at town meeting, targets multiple levels of wind systems. These range from small, private systems for individual homes to intermediate-level commercial systems for small business use and farms to “community wind.”

The ordinance would provide parameters that developers would have to follow, many of which are already in place on federal and state levels.

Grindal told listeners that the Town of Sedgwick already has land use ordinances that can be changed by voters, none “cast in stone.”

On hand to promote the second ordinance that will appear on the town meeting warrant, Mia Strong put aside concern for regulation of farm produce to inquire about specifics of the wind energy ordinance.

She was assured that the process is not unlike any application appearing before the planning board, except that hazards are different, standards are unique to the project, and an aim is to protect “the sound of silence.” “People just aren’t annoyed by sound, they’re physically affected by it,” Gray said.

Trowbridge said the proposed ordinance isn’t “pro-anything,” despite Gray’s having said the committee worked to produce “a compromise”.

“Technology is evolving,” she said.

“Other than sound, are there any other issues?” asked Charles Marshall.

There was no answer forthcoming. Grindal said wind power will be a long time coming, but if something does come along, the proposed ordinance is a start at regulating it to benefit local citizens.