Frankfort residents approved a strict wind energy ordinance by a vote of 244 to 222 at a special referendum election, Thursday, Dec. 1. The single-issue election brought out more than half of the town’s 845 registered voters.

The wind energy ordinance, drafted by a town committee in response to a proposal from Portsmouth, N.H.-based Eolian Renewable Energy to erect four to six wind turbines on Mount Waldo, would require industrial-scale turbines to be set back one mile from abutting property lines, limit noise from the turbines to 45 decibels during the day, 40 db in the evening, and 32 db at night measured at any property within a radius of one mile [Editor’s note: this corrects a previous version of the article, which incorrectly quoted from an earlier draft of the ordinance].

Though the ordinance allows abutting property owners to sign mitigation waivers, the consensus among members of the committee and representatives of Eolian alike has been that the document would effectively ban commercial wind developments.

Responding to a request for comment, Eolian CEO Jack Kenworthy issued the following statement in an e-mail, Friday, Dec. 2:

“Eolian would like to express our appreciation and thank all of the voters in Frankfort who came out in strong support of local clean energy production and property rights.  The Mount Waldo site is an excellent location for an appropriately sized wind facility and we are clearly disappointed that a prohibitive ordinance is now in place.  Our stance on the site’s potential for a great project and the benefits it can bring to Frankfort remain unchanged.  We will be evaluating our plans regarding next steps for Waldo Community Wind in the coming weeks.”

Speaking on Dec. 5, wind ordinance committee member Steven Imondi focused on the turnout at the polls.

“We’re really glad that a lot of the town showed up,” he said. “It was a huge turnout … the democratic process worked, and that’s always a good thing.”

Speaking in October, Imondi had described the drafting process as an exhaustive survey of dozens of studies from a wide range of sources with a goal of protecting the health and welfare of the town, and said that in almost every case the committee looked at, complaints were substantially fewer with mile setbacks in place. Imondi said there are around 30 residences within a one-mile radius of the proposed Mount Waldo development.

Asked about the narrow margin of the vote, Imondi didn’t sound surprised.

“We thought it would be close,” he said. “There was a larger turnout than we expected.”

Imondi, who described the experience of working on the ordinance and bringing it to a vote as a “long process,” also acknowledged that the ordinance issue had proven divisive in Frankfort.

“We now hope that the town can start the healing process so that we can move forward and not be divided,” Imondi wrote, in an email.

Eolian previously rebutted each of the major points of the committee’s ordinance based on an earlier, more restrictive draft and proposed an alternative set of guidelines in the form of contract regulations specific to the Waldo Community Wind project. Under the Eolian proposal, the setbacks would have been a minimum of three times the tip height of the turbine to any structure on an abutting property. The company proposed noise limits of 55 decibels at any occupied structure during daytime hours and 45 db at night, shadow flicker would have been limited to 30 hours per year and the company would have provided a full decommissioning plan, among other requirements.

Eolian, through its website, argued that the Waldo Community Wind project would bring $100,000 per year in tax benefits to Frankfort, create jobs and be a source of renewable energy.