Residents will have a chance to talk directly about the draft plan to the regional commission, called the Northeastern Vermont Development Association.
The NVDA board meets Thursday, Dec. 8, at the Newport Country Club on Mt. Vernon Street in Newport City, beginning at 6:30 p.m. with dinner, and the meeting to follow.
Steve Patterson, executive director of NVDA, expects the board could discuss the draft plan at that time.
NVDA is composed of two representatives of each of the 55-member municipalities, plus local legislators and others. The draft plan can be changed by the board, Patterson said.
If it is revised significantly, a copy of the draft plan must go back out to municipalities in the region plus those who requested a copy, he said.
The draft regional plan’s language on wind power drew about 45 people to the first hearing in Newport City Nov. 3.
The current plan, approved in 2000, barely mentions wind power. But the emergence of major wind projects in the past few years, intended for ridge lines and mountains in the Northeast Kingdom from Lowell to East Haven to Brighton, has made wind power one of the region’s most controversial issues.
The Vermont Public Service Board is expected to rule soon on whether four wind turbines, dubbed a demonstration project, will be installed on East Mountain in East Haven.
The draft states: "As a statement of policy, NVDA supports the construction of wind towers," the draft plan states. "We believe this is too important a power source to be excluded from our overall energy mix. At the same time, the [NVDA] Board does not believe wind towers should be imposed on communities that don’t want them within their borders.
"Therefore, town plans that exclude the construction of wind towers will still be considered in compliance with the regional plan."
NVDA board members have said that member municipalities have sharply different positions on wind power. The board sought compromise in the draft plan to leave decisions about whether to encourage or ban wind turbines up to municipalities, Patterson has said.
However, the regional position on wind energy could play a role in whether state regulators on the Public Service Board allow wind turbines in the region. The Public Service Board is required to look at town and regional plans in making any energy decisions.
Critics at the first hearing told Patterson and NVDA board leaders that NVDA should take a stand to oppose large wind turbines, which could affect more than just a town where turbines are erected.
Once the Dec. 6 hearing is complete, the NVDA board can make changes to the draft plan. A revised draft would go online and be sent to towns for review, according to state statutes, and a final hearing would be held.
Then the NVDA board would vote on the plan, which must be approved by 60 percent of the commissioners.
A majority of the municipalities in the region could veto the final plan, according to statute.
NVDA must update its regional plan every five years.
To review the draft plan or see a comparison to the 2000 plan, check the NVDA Web site at www.nvda.net
or go to the NVDA office at 36 Eastern Ave., St. Johnsbury. The Web site also lists the NVDA board commissioners.
The regional plan also addresses other important issues, including transportation, housing, energy sources, telecommunications and economic development.
The regional plan "is a guiding document to help shape the direction the Northeast Kingdom is going to go in the next five years," Patterson has said.