Ridge Protectors, a group opposed to wind turbines on Sheffield’s ridge lines, say they’ve surveyed residents, and about 70 percent of them oppose the project. They plan to present a petition to the selectmen Wednesday night, October 5, asking that town officials convey the town’s opposition to state regulatory agencies as well as the project’s sponsor.
A Newton, Massachusetts, company, UPC Wind Management, LLC, wants to put up at least 24 turbines on Hardscrabble Mountain in Sheffield to generate electricity. The 30 or so members of Ridge Protectors are fighting the plan, saying they aren’t opposed to wind power, but they are opposed to the scale of this project.
“We have about 70 percent of landowners, resident and nonresident, who don’t want wind towers on Hardscrabble Mountain,” spokesman Karla Wilbur said Monday. “We’re not against green power. We’re not even against wind power.
“One of things we found when we were out talking to our neighbors was that nobody knew the scale of this thing,” Ms. Wilbur said. “That’s the biggest problem, the scale.”
The towers would hurt farmers and sportsmen, Ridge Protectors said in a press release. They’d cause noise pollution, and property values would likely fall, which would lead to higher taxes. Also, they said, tourism, a major source of jobs, would be depressed by such a big and noisy project.
“Noise and flashing lights from the turbine towers will impair Sheffield residents’ quality of life, night and day,” the press release says.
The group held a meeting on Sunday at the Sheffield Town Hall to let people know about their latest efforts, mainly about the petition drives, Ms. Wilbur said. They are petitioning the selectmen as well as the Governor, basically saying that landowners don’t want commercial wind towers on Hardscrabble Mountain or any other ridgeline.
Earlier, a town official had said that about 4 percent of townspeople opposed the project. So Ridge Protectors set out to do their own survey, Ms. Wilbur said. Actually, they started a petition drive, which was intended to measure the temperature of the town. They went door to door, conducted two letter campaigns, and had a booth at the Caledonia County Fair.
Also, they wrote to landowners who don’t live in the town, said Frances Hersey Vos. She said letters are still coming in, so the situation is changing daily, but there’s no question that the vast majority of landowners oppose the towers.
According to the 2000 Census, Sheffield’s population, with children, is 727. There are 388 registered voters.
So far, 155 voters, 40 percent, have signed a petition asking the Sheffield Selectmen to tell state regulatory agencies that residents are opposed to the project, Ms. Wilbur said in the press release.
“Ridge Protectors wrote to all 436 names on the Grand List. Many answered, indicating they oppose construction of the wind facility. Looked at from this perspective, 310 Sheffieldians – resident and nonresident property owners, half of whom are voters – oppose the proposal… Thus roughly 72 percent of the Grand List opposes the turbines.
“Based on the strong response to the petition, Ridge Protectors is asking the select board to convey the town’s opposition to UPC Wind, and to the Vermont agencies that will decide whether to let the project proceed.”
Ridge Protectors has gone beyond opposing this particular project and is trying to encourage legislation that would lead to energy conservation, Ms. Wilbur said. She said the organization has no problem with personal wind turbines, and supports alternative energy as well as conservation efforts.
She said the group plans to work on a plan to give people credit for using solar energy. “And maybe put a premium on people who choose to use more than their fair share of energy by having a huge house, or in other ways,” she said.
Ms. Wilbur lives in Sheffield, where most of the group’s membership comes from. But other members live in Glover, Kirby and Sutton.
“We would be personally affected, but people from Danville through Glover would be affected too,” she said. “These are 330-foot towers. This is a very rural area, and it just doesn’t fit.”
It seems that not only are big and intrusive energy projects introduced to rural areas, but also to economically depressed rural areas that don’t have a lot of money to work with, Ms. Wilbur said.
She added that the group has talked to a small number of people who do want the towers.
Ms. Hersey Vos said they’ve also found a number of people who are reluctant to sign the petition, or aren’t sure of their position. Given that segment of the population, she said, there are few who actually favor the project.
There were about 30 participants at Sunday’s meeting, she said. “From the press and our group. We updated people on what we’re doing.”
Ridge Protectors organized three or four months ago. Carol Brouha of Sutton was one of its founders. She said one of her concerns is that plans for the project may not have been straightforward. “We’ve had this uncomfortable feeling that everything wasn’t above board,” she said.
Initially, the plan was to put up ten towers, but now that’s gone to between 24 and 30, Ms. Brouha said.
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