On Saturday, Feb. 6 Jackson residents will vote on a proposed wind energy ordinance more than a year in the making. The vote, to take place at a special town meeting, comes as the result of a petition submitted by residents concerned that the town selectmen were moving too slowly to enact the ordinance.

Jackson recently began its third six-month moratorium on issuing permits for wind development, and Selectwoman Cindy Ludden said the town could enact a fourth if necessary. “We’re in no hurry,” she said. “There is absolutely no hurry to get this through.”

Others don’t share that view. The Jackson Planning Board completed a draft ordinance in November. At a Dec. 1 selectmen’s meeting, some residents asked the selectmen to set a date to vote on the ordinance. When they didn’t, a group collected 130 signatures, thereby forcing a vote.

David McDaniel, a member of the Planning Board subcommittee that contributed to the ordinance, signed and collected signatures for the petition. “In a town this small, a petition with 130 signatures is unheard of,” he said. “At [the annual] town meeting there are usually 140 people.”

Whether or not townspeople accept the ordinance on Saturday, it will likely need revisions. Town attorney Bill Kelly reviewed the document in December and submitted 40 corrections. According to Ludden, some of these are libel issues. Regardless of the nature of the corrections, Ludden said she doesn’t want residents to have to address 30 amendments after the fact when, given more time, the selectmen could have presented an ordinance that addressed Kelly’s concerns.

Two wind developers have approached the town since 2008, drawn to a ridge that runs from Thorndike to Dixmont, traversing Jackson along its northern border. Of the two companies, one, Mt. Harris Wind — a project-specific subset of Portland-based Competitive Energy Services, the company behind the three-turbine Beaver Ridge Wind development in Freedom — is still actively interested. Boston-based Citizens Wind withdrew interest in early 2009.

The initial interest from the two companies sparked debate among residents, and rumors circulated about which landowners had signed lease agreements with the companies. Two selectmen, John Work and David Greeley, have been dogged by the appearance of conflicts of interest. Work was a subcontractor on the Beaver Ridge development. Greeley claims to have previously signed an option with Citizens Wind for two turbines.

Jackson town attorney Bill Kelly said confidentiality prevents him from speaking about discussions he has had with Jackson officials, but with regard to towns, generally, he said, affliations that selectmen have are inconsequential because any changes to a town’s ordinance must occur by popular vote at a town meeting.

Accusations have flown in both directions, with the wind power subcommittee criticized as having been formed to block wind development.

The Beaver Ridge development has been divisive in Freedom, and Jackson residents wary that similar troubles could befall their town if development went unchecked got involved early in drafting a wind ordinance for the town. The document proposed by the planning board would require one-mile setbacks for industrial wind developments. As Ludden described it, the ordinance would allow wind power to come to Jackson, but would most likely scare away industrial wind developers.

At a Jan. 28 Planning Board meeting at which both Ludden and Work were present, the two selectmen each indicated that they planned to draft their own ordinances to compete with the ordinance drafted by the Planning Board. After the meeting, Work said he expected the selectmen would present a single revised version of the ordinance and request a vote in March.

“One [ordinance] will basically allow wind; the other [to be voted on Saturday] won’t,” he said.

The special town meeting to vote on the ordinance will be held at 9 a.m. at the Community Center on the Village Road.