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Sheffield Planners Hear Details Of UPC Vermont Wind Project  

SHEFFIELD -- UPC Vermont Wind brought out its big guns Thursday night to present the company's development plans to the Sheffield Planning Commission.

About 40 people listened as company president Paul Gaynor, vice president of environmental affairs Dave Cowan, and vice president of power sales Steve Vavrik gave details of their company and its plan to erect 20 398-foot commercial wind turbines between Hardscrabble Mountain, Granby Mountain and Libby Hill.

Six more turbines are slated for Sutton near Norris Mountain.

"We’ve been working on this project for years and have years to go," Gaynor told the group. "This is a major, complicated utility project."

Vavrik said the company plans to file for a certificate of public good from the Vermont Public Service Board in late December or early January. He said he expects the permit process to take until 2007. This process under Section 248 of Title 30, state statute which governs the generation and transmission of power, is similar to Act 250, the state’s land development law.

"It’s a long, public process," Cowan said. Numerous studies have to be done by specialists who have expertise in wildlife, historic sites, wetlands, ice throw from the turbines’ blades, erosion control and storm water management, to name a few, he said. Cowan said UPC is working closely with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.

Gaynor said the turbines are very big and would have impacts on the town. But, he added, "The benefits to Sheffield will be significant."

Just what those benefits will be is still not clear. Planning Commissioner Lynne Kayser asked if UPC could come up with a ballpark figure on how much the town would gain in taxes from the project. "I think the people of Sheffield have a right to know before they vote," Kayser said.

A non-binding vote on the wind project is scheduled for Dec. 1.

Vavrik said they had met with Richard Saudek, an attorney hired by the town, earlier in the day in Montpelier.

"We’re trying to come up with a number, but it’s going to take time," he said. One of the problems is there is no legislation in Vermont to use as a guideline. The way the tax system works in Vermont is 30 percent of taxes paid go to the town and 70 percent go to the state for education, Vavrik said. It’s the 70 percent that presents a stumbling block.

UPC has suggested between $150,000 and $300,000 total annual payments to Sheffield and Sutton. The cost of the project is expected to be about $4 million per turbine, Gaynor said.

Opposition Voiced

But it was obvious from comments made during the meeting that many people are strongly opposed to any large turbines in Sheffield no matter how much money the town gets in return.

When asked if voters decided they did not want UPC in Sheffield on Dec. 1, would the company go away, Gaynor said he could not answer that question at this time.

One concern raised was the widening of roads. Commissioner Les Degreenia wanted to know which roads would be affected and to what extent. "Route 122 is not going to be widened," Gaynor said. He added that he had heard rumors that everyone in the village was going to lose their front lawns. "Nothing is going to be done to Route 122."

Berry Hill Road may need some culverts reinforced and more gravel, Gaynor said. Roads for maintenance vehicles need to be 16 feet wide, he said. Hardscrabble Road will have to be widened, he said, to which one Hardscrabble resident retorted: "That’s not going to happen."

Advertising Blitz

Numerous advertisements have appeared in The Caledonian-Record recently touting the benefits of wind power. These ads are being created by Spike Advertising of Richmond, Vt. Erik Filkorn, an independent publicist with the company, said he had been hired by UPC and they were paying for the ads.

Tim Caffyn, project manager for UPC, said before the meeting began that the money used for the advertising did not come from a $941,400 federal grant awarded to Washington Electric Co-op. That money has been used for environmental studies, Caffyn said. WEC announced a partnership with UPC in June to study the feasibility of a commercial wind farm in Sheffield.

http://www.caledonianrecord.com/pages/top_news/story/12455a902

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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