Monmouth voters defeat moratorium that would have halted commercial solar projects

Sam Shepherd, Kennebec Journal, Augusta, Maine
·3 min read

Mar. 10—MONMOUTH — Voters defeated a proposed moratorium halting commercial solar facilities, allowing a proposal for a 55-acre facility on Ridge Road to proceed.

On Tuesday, residents voted 578-350 to defeat the article.

That measure was placed on the ballot in response to a project planned by Longroad Development Co., a Boston-based renewable energy development firm, that would place about 36 acres of solar equipment, including 8-foot-high panels, on 55 acres of leased land at 483 Ridge Road, and produce 4.95 megawatts exclusively for Bath Iron Works.

If it had been approved, the proposed moratorium would have halted all construction or operation of commercial solar energy facilities and any town action dealing with applications for licenses. It would have been retroactive to Nov. 18, 2020, when ordinance changes passed through the Town Meeting, which added language for commercial solar projects, went into effect.

David Kane, director of Longroad Development, said in a Wednesday morning statement that the company is "gratified by the strong show of support for solar power by the people of Monmouth, and look forward to a long and productive partnership with the community, putting Mainers to work, and delivering significant financial and clean energy benefits."

The moratorium question was put on the ballot in December, with a 3-2 vote from the Monmouth Select Board. Selectmen Mike Minkowsky, Harold Jones and Kristin Sanborn voted in favor, and selectmen Douglas Ludewig and Timothy McDonald were opposed.

Sanborn said Wednesday the Select Board was asked by constituents to put it out there, and the residents have spoken on the issue and business will proceed as usual.

"It wasn't up to me," she said. "We were asked to have this moratorium for a pause and obviously the folks in the town ... didn't want to review the existing ordinance."

Ludewig said Wednesday he was "pleased that so many people saw it that way," and said articles in a community advertiser may have contributed to the margin of defeat.

"We had some pretty good things written in the Community Advertiser from known people in town," he said. "That might have helped people decide."

Former state Rep. Bonnie Green, who lives at 542 Ridge Road, is firmly against the project. In February, she said that it would "completely obliterate" panoramic views that people travel to Monmouth to see and harm wildlife in the area.

In response, Kane pointed to simulated pictures that show the views of the panels from Ridge Road, saying that the panels "don't come close to blocking the view from the east and the north."

On the election loss, Green said "you win some, you lose some." She called presentations the company gave "haphazard," and questioned whether answers Longroad previously gave have changed.

The project's website touts $5 million taxable value for Monmouth, but the project would qualify for a state exemption that would allow the company to not pay property taxes, with the state reimbursing the town for half the taxes that would have been paid.

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