September 29, 2006

Sheffield officials pleased by wind farm changes

SHEFFIELD ““ Town officials here say they applaud UPC Wind’s recent decision to reduce the number of turbines for the proposed Sheffield Wind Farm, even though it means less money for the town, Selectman Chairman Max Aldrich said Thursday.

“It seems good they are trying and making an honest attempt to address the issues and we are pleased by that,” Aldrich said.

The town would get less revenue than under the original proposal because the number of turbines that would be built in Sheffield has been reduced from 20 to 14. The agreement with the town calls for UPC to meet a number of conditions and provides the town with taxes and other payments.

The new plan would reduce the town’s share of taxes and other payments from around a maximum of $550,000 to a maximum $481,250, according to Richard Saudek, the Montpelier-based attorney representing Sheffield. Saudek said the agreement officials signed this summer remains intact even with changes, but less money will come in because fewer turbines means lower value and less power generated.

Town officials said they are happy to take less money if it means addressing concerns of some strongly critical constituents, especially those living on Berry Hill and Hardscrabble Mountain who, under the previous plan, would be as close as a half-mile to the nearest turbine.

“We don’t feel it is a large price to pay considering the number of hot button issues they’ve addressed by these changes,” Aldrich said.

UPC on Monday filed an amended proposal with the Vermont Public Service Board which removes 10 of the 26 turbines originally proposed, of which 20 were in Sheffield and six in Sutton. They also re-routed a proposed access road from Dareous Road near Hardscrabble Mountain to coming down from Barton. The King George School, one of the project’s sharpest critics, had owned rights to Dareous Road.

The move changes – but does not negate – an agreement selectmen signed with the wind developer this summer guaranteeing taxes, other payments, communications and promises to repair any damage caused during construction, according to Saudek. Saudek outlined how the change affects the town in a memo, saying the new plan would reduce the number of towers in Sheffield by 30 percent. Power capacity of the machines would be reduced by 12 1/2 percent, from 40 megawatts to 35 megawatts.

“This would make them less valuable and will lessen their assessed value for property tax purposes,” Saudek said. “The height of the towers will be the same, but the blades will be longer.”

Saudek said the revisions would significantly reduce the “environmental dislocation” to the town and its residents.

By Carla Occaso Times Argus Staff

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