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Wind not a stormy issue in Readsboro, Searsburg  

READSBORO — Officials from the two towns most affected by a proposed wind facility met on Wednesday night to discuss the economic impacts of a 30-turbine development.

The Readsboro and Searsburg Select Boards met in the Central School gym to discuss the financial benefits and strains that can be expected by a town hosting a wind farm. Robert Ide of the Vermont Department of Public Service attended, as did about 10 residents. Searsburg is now the home of the state's only existing commercial wind facility. There are 11 turbines producing about 6 megawatts of electricity. A 30- to 45-megawatt plant with 20 to 30 new turbines has been proposed for ridgelines spanning both Readsboro and Searsburg.

Searsburg officials drew on their experience with the current wind facility to answer many of the questions asked by Readsboro residents and board members.

Ide spoke to the boards and audience members about the process towns go through as the state considers whether to grant or deny a developer the necessary certificate of public good to build an in-state electricity transmission and generation project.

If the new project is approved, Readsboro residents may see a 29 percent decrease in their municipal taxes, according to John G. Whitman Jr. of the Readsboro Planning Commission. Whitman said if the wind facility were valued at $20 million that would be a 41 percent increase to the 2004 grand list.

Because a wind facility would not affect the school tax rate or add to the town’s municipal service costs, a facility would bring a 14 percent decrease in the total municipal and school taxes paid by current landowners, he said.

Representatives from Searsburg said the existing wind power facility, which has an assessed value of about $5.85 million, makes up one third of that town’s grand list.

Residents asked whether the town could expect the wind facility to provide jobs. Searsburg board member Ron Lemaire said there is currently one employee at the existing site. Readsboro board members said they would like to see townspeople hired to help build the project.

Some residents questioned whether the town could expect less immediate economic impacts, such effects on the town’s real estate values and tourism. Ide said that based on studies he’s read, host towns have not seen major decreases in property values after wind facilities were erected.

“For every person who has one aesthetic pleasure there is another who has a different one,” said Ide. “People seem to accept them once they’re built.”

Searsburg board members said they did not notice an increase in tourism dollars. Often, people drive up the mountain or take a tour bus just to look at the turbines and then leave, they said. Ide replied that it is up to the town to cash in on curious visitors.

“People do come to see them and there are opportunities for the community to figure out how to interact with these people,” said Ide.

Board members from both towns said it was important to bring economic concerns to the table when negotiating with developers and working with the state through the approval process.

http://http://www.benningtonbanner.com/headlines/ci_3225839

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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