Avote in the town of Sheffield on Thursday night will answer at least one question in the wind turbine debate that is churning in this tiny Northeast Kingdom town. Do the voters of Sheffield support a wind development on a ridgeline in their town?
Whether the vote, which is nonbinding, has any influence on the proposed project is another question.
The town selectboard has said it will respect the decision. The wind developer has made no such commitment. And the Public Service Board, which would ultimately approve or reject the project, is not bound by a town vote, although it could take it into consideration.
There are 421 registered voters in Sheffield. This is an important vote that no one should miss because the wind development being proposed for these mountains is huge.
UPC Vermont Wind LLC of Newton, Mass., wants to build between 20 and 35 wind turbines, almost 400 feet tall, on two ridgelines in Sheffield and nearby Sutton. The company plans to go to the Public Service Board in coming months to seek a certificate of public good for the project.
The town vote was called to try to calm tensions in a community that has been turned upside down by the prospect of having an industrial wind farm in town. Ridge Protectors, a citizens group opposed to the project, has been going door to door with petitions, putting up lawn signs and advertising in local media. UPC hired a public relations firm to try to win the hearts of the people of Sheffield.
Many residents say they’re worn out by the fight and long for life to return to normal.
"People in town will be glad when Thursday has come and gone, and we have time to mend and regroup, take down our signs and get ready for Christmas," said Gay Ellis, a member of Ridge Protectors and the Sheffield Planning Commission.
To the people of Sheffield, exercise your democratic right. Vote and have your say.