2009-01-14 / Front Page

Annexation process underway with selectmen's approval

'SUGARLOAF COMMUNITY WIND FARM'
By David Hart Irregular Staff

CARRABASSETT VALLEY -- The issue and debate over a 90 megawatt wind farm in the Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble Mountain is alive again. Last Monday the selectmen unanimously approved a measure to send to the state Legislature a plan for the town to annex approximately 10,000 acres of land.

This coming from an informational meeting held at the Outdoor Center where approximately 45 people were in attendance. Some said they were in support of the project, others showed they were in opposition and there were those who didn't specify their position, but rather encouraged the selectmen to simply start the process. A process that if the Legislature approves it, brings the issue of extending town lines to allow for a wind farm back before the town voters.

The Legislature this session will decide if it wants to pass a Private and Special Law for the transfer to happen. The deadline for any bill to be considered this session is mid January so the selectmen decided to act now.

Harley Lee, president of Endless Energy Corp. of Yarmouth, presented the selectmen and those in attendance with an explanation of the 30-turbine project and a concept and benefit package that went along with it.

The land is currently owned by Redington Mountain Wind Power LLC, an affiliate of Endless Energy and Dallas Co. which is a timber resource company.

The plan is very similar to a proposal that was rejected by the state's Land Use Regulation Commission back in 2007. The plan calls for 18 turbines in the Redington Pond Range and 12 turbines on Black Nubble. The commissioners ordered its staff, which initially recommended the project, to write a letter denying the permit by disapproval of the project.

Lee's next move was to re-submit a plan for 12 turbines only on Black Nubble and to put the land owned in Redington Township into a permanent conservation easement. That plan too was rejected by the LURC Commissioners last winter.

Should the Legislature and Carrabassett voters approve the annexation, LURC would have no jurisdiction or authority over the proposal. Regulation and permitting would then go through the local planning board.

The difference in this project is it's now called the Sugarloaf Community Wind Farm and the benefits, Lee explained, could directly benefit local residents and businesses.

Lee explained that the project would benefit tax-payers by reducing the mil rate by more that 20 percent. It was reported that Lee estimated that the $180 million project could reduce the taxpayer rate from 6.2 to 4.9 mils in the first year.

It will also provide electrical discounts to area residents and to businesses such as Sugarloaf and Sunday River resorts. Lee explained that negotiations are underway with representatives of Boyne USA which could result, he states, in a $40 million savings realized by the resorts over a projected time period.

It was reported that one plan for residential customers is to pay an upfront $5,000 to the company and then those customers would see much lower electrical rates than what's currently available.

The selectmen's approval is just one tiny step in a very lengthy process for Lee and his 10-plus year desire to bring a wind farm to Franklin County. Throughout that process the public will have numerous opportunities to weigh in, such as public hearings that will occur before the state Legislature makes its decision.

"Our goal," CV selectman chairman Bob Luce explained after the meeting, "is to start the process and move it forward to the voters." Luce did not take a position on the merits, values it may or not have or any concerns he had. "Whatever happens, happens."

The Legislature is the second hurdle for Endless Energy. Town folks will have public meetings and hearings before the registered voters in Carrabassett and, if any, those living in the region being considered for annexation will have the chance to vote.

From there, the proposal will go before the town's planning board where the public can be heard in Public Hearings conducted by that board.

Additionally a comprehensive planning committee will need to be established and, if approved to date, the town footprint and purpose would need to be updated and eventually approved by the voters.

Not to forget to mention the Public Utility Commission approval, state agencies, and some federal approvals should wetlands be impacted.

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