Saturday, June 26, 2010
Somerset Economic Development Corporation Hosts the Friends of the Highland Mountains
On Friday, June 25th, the Somerset Economic Development Corporation graciously hosted the Friends of the Highland Mountains. Last month, Angus King was the guest speaker, as those of you who follow GAG are aware of. Mr. King made his presentation, and many of his statements were evasive or misleading... or downright untrue. Let's face it: He's trying to sell a product to the people of Maine, and he is the Wind Industry's version of a car salesman. (Ouch! I profusely apologize to those good car salesmen whom I know and love! But hey! I'm a real estate broker. I couldn't use THAT for an analogy, now... could I?)
After sitting quietly through Mr. King's presentation, the eight of us from our group who had attended the meeting decided that we simply had to address the misleading statements Mr. King had put forth. After all, he was a well-liked governor, and people naturally tend to believe what a man with power and influence and charisma tell them. So we asked the SEDC if they would allow us to speak at their next meeting. I was pleased and honored when they said "yes".
We only had a half-hour. The chairman of our Board, Alan Michka, spoke first. He addressed, point by point, those statements from Mr. King's presentation which we took exception to. I followed with a speech addressing the development's potential impact on businesses and real estate values in our county, and then Greg Drummond, owner of Claybrook Mountain Lodge, a sporting camp overlooking Highland's mountains, shared what an industrial wind development would do to his business and his quality of life. Greg's account was poignant, and it added a personal touch. How these developments will affect those who will be living in the shadow of industrial wind is something which developers such as Mr. King and Mr. Gardiner side-step constantly. They do not wish to address concerns like those Greg and his wife have. The general public might feel empathy for residents' concerns... and that sympathy would not bode well for the Industrial Wind contingents here in Maine.
Below, I've pasted in the few words which I shared with the SEDC Board. After our own presentation, we took questions from the members, and they were thoughtful questions... questions which we expected and which many people ask when first confronted with our different point of view. Questions like: If this was not in your back yard, would you support Industrial Wind? Or: If Maine has a policy against nuclear and hydro power, and you are nay-saying wind turbine generation, how would you supply our energy needs? What is your answer to the problem?
For the record, I stated that once upon a time, I would have supported an industrial wind development right here IN my own backyard... because I believed what the media and the government and the industry told us. I believed that wind energy was free, with few impacts, and that it would reduce carbon emissions and help our world move toward solving the crisis of global warming. It was only after educating myself on the topic that I changed my mind. The FACTS hold more sway with me than the hype does. It is my hope that as we attempt to give other residents the resources and information which we have access to, they, too, will understand the true impacts of land-based industrial wind in Maine.
I also reminded the board that technology is advancing all the time. There are many intelligent and dedicated individuals working on ways to improve the safety of nuclear power and find responsible ways to dispose of the waste. There are scientists looking into engineering dams which do not have the detrimental impacts on a river system which some of our old ones did. Just because our current government has those anti-nuclear and anti-hydro policies does not mean that the people of Maine might not implement change in the future, when such projects' positive contributions outweigh their negative impacts. In addition, I said that as a responsible citizen, I believe it is my duty to try to stop something I believe to be misguided and destructive. I stated that if I saw a person harming another, I would feel impelled to stop that hurtful action... whether I knew how to stop violence world-wide, or not.
I wish I DID have the answers to our energy needs... wish I knew how to provide low-impact power for the state of Maine. But I told the Board that I believe our tax-payer dollars could be put to much better use by spending them on energy conservation instead of a power generating source which we do not currently have a need for. If we insulated these old homes, replaced their windows and heating systems, and changed out our lightbulbs for flourescent, we would not only conserve power, we would be putting a large sector of Maine people back to work. Mr. King wants to provide 4-6 jobs for Somerset County. I think we can do much, much better than that.
My name is Karen Pease, and I thank you for allowing me to address your organization. I am a member of the Friends of the Highland Mountains. I live in Lexington Township on a 70 acre homestead, and for the last nine years, I’ve owned Narrow Gauge Realty in Kingfield, a company that has been in business for almost 30 years.
While my office is located in Franklin County, many of my clients live and own property in Somerset County. As of this date, 41% of my 91 current listings are in this county, and that represents a base value in real property of just over $4,500,000.00. In addition, other listings are in Carrabassett Valley, which borders Highland Plantation and lies directly to the west of the mountains which Mr. King and Mr. Gardiner propose to develop. County lines are not impenetrable borders, and what happens in Somerset County doesn’t necessarily stay here.
In reading your website, I came across these statements:
Your mission “is to undertake an economic development strategy to improve the economic condition and quality of life for all residents of Somerset County." Quality of life is what most people who live in Highland and the surrounding communities came for… it’s also why we stay.
Your stated goals are, in part, to “Create a vibrant economic climate, and maximize the value of our natural resources…"
I realize that as an organization, your goals are tied to the economic health of Somerset County. Wind developers also know this. When Mr. King was here last month, we heard about the projected tax benefits to the county, and Alan has shown you another way to look at that seemingly huge number. That benefit would amount to less than $10.00 per person. Less than TEN DOLLARS per person. Mr. King also promised jobs, which, according to his own permit application, will be temporary and only 38 weeks in duration, and many of those will be held by contractors from large companies which are not based in Somerset County. The permit application also states there will be only 4-6 full time jobs created… but they are jobs which, for the first two years, anyway, may have to be held by technicians in the manufacturer’s employ, and not by Somerset County residents.
As a business owner, I look at the advent of miles and miles of industrial wind turbines atop our greatest natural resources as an economic bane, not a boom. Experience tells me that if we forever alter those mountains which beckon so many tourists to our corner of the state, we are committing economic suicide. We have, right here, what millions of Americans are craving… what they are willing to go into debt to have, or cash out their retirement funds to buy. We aren’t the “Saudi Arabia of Wind”. We are the eastern seaboard’s Saudi Arabia of mountains, and wild places, and peace and quiet. Taking care of our natural resources cannot hurt our economy… it can only enhance it.
Industrial wind does not do what its proponents promise. Science and economics tell the true story. After months of study, I believe that it is nothing but a flash in the pan fueled by the promise of stimulus funds and tax production credits, which are supported by tax-payer dollars. Our government is taking money from working Americans and giving the lion’s share to enhance the wealth of a few industrial wind developers. Chances are good that we are each paying more than that $10.00 per person to pay for the destruction of our most valuable resources; the high terrain wilderness regions of this state.
Bill Townsend, a respected attorney here in Skowhegan and a former president of the Natural Resources Council of Maine once stated that “the idea of destroying a river system for a subsidized crop… wasn’t well received.” Mr. Townsend had it right. Destroying countless miles of mountain ecosystems for an intermittent and unreliable energy source with tax-payer subsidies is also not a responsible plan to implement in our state—or in Somerset County.
I have had prospective buyers tell me that they would have made offers on certain parcels of land or homes in Highland and Lexington, but because they believe an industrial wind development is imminent, they decided to look elsewhere. And I’ve had friends tell me that they can’t stand the idea of living in the shadow of industrial wind, and that if Mr. King’s permit application is approved, they will be putting their homes on the market. It’s unconscionable that they should be forced to move, and if they can’t sell their property for its pre-wind value, that’s even more unacceptable.
I listen to my buyers, and I listen to my sellers. I also pay attention to what real estate experts around the country are saying. Michael McCann, a Certified Review Appraiser and sales associate in several states and a member of an honorary land economics society, has developed a very comprehensive report detailing the adverse affects to values on real estate in the vicinity of industrial wind developments. I will provide you with the information in that report. Mr. McCann found that, not only are real estate values adversely affected by as much as 25-40% or more, but residents’ lack of the use and enjoyment of their homes is also a major ‘down side’ to industrial wind. I don’t think we want to tell Somerset County residents that a developer has the right to interfere with their quality of life or to take away their earnings in what is, for most, their only investment.
Wind developers in Maine love to tell us that real estate values will not be negatively affected if they bring their turbines to our mountains. Mr. King even indicated that wind turbines could be a tourist attraction… that people would come to Maine simply in order to see them. I submit that yes, for a short time many people will come to gawk--just as they would slow down to see an accident on the side of the road. But once there are 360 miles of mammoth turbines stretched all across this state affecting the views from hundreds and hundreds of square miles, I don’t think anyone would believe that they would entice tourists, anymore. On the other hand, Maine’s iconic mountains have been drawing visitors and their dollars for generation upon generation. What nature has created for us is the lure. We already have what millions of people want.
I ask that you look at this development in a different light. My business, which my parents created and built, depends on it. There is a massive amount of factual information available which will show you what those places in the world which are already experienced in Industrial Wind have discovered. This is not, will not be, the boom the developers suggest. You need only ask some of the business owners in Stratton-- friends of mine whom I have talked to--who were promised economic growth. They never saw it. The ONLY ones to benefit from the Kibby project were those who accepted ‘tangible benefits’ in the form of cash gifts or incentives.
Maine already exports power. We do not need what these turbines will produce. I believe that our economic future is tied to our unspoiled landscape, and I believe it should not be irreparably damaged to supply another region’s need for electricity. Please watch our video and avail yourselves of the information that can be accessed through the links on the pages which I’ve handed out. There are potentially many, many small Maine businesses which will be facing economic crisis if we allow our quality of place to be destroyed.
Let's keep our motto true. Let’s keep this state “Maine: The way life SHOULD be”.
The photo of the home on the water is in Highland Plantation, and in addition to the pond, the major, close-up view from this home is of the Highland Mountains.
I took this photo of the moose cow and calf on the morning of the SEDC meeting, June 25th, in Kingsbury... another Maine village which industrial wind developers are considering for mountaintop wind turbines.
We always try to be factual, and I made a mistake at the SEDC meeting. When speaking of the 360 miles of mountains to be topped with turbines, I stated that Maine wasn't even that long, from the crown to Kittery. I was corrected by a gentleman at the meeting, and I'd like to thank him for that. I was informed that Maine is actually 408 miles long. It's good to know. And it's par for the course... I made my own estimation by looking at my Gazetteer...and you all KNOW how good I am with maps!
I will remember that. Four hundred and eight miles. Thank you, sir!