Sutton officials overspent $25,000 allocated for legal fees to fight the Sheffield Wind Farm, prompting a town spokesman on Monday to ask Lyndon selectmen to help pay for a new filing due in a week.
Lyndon officials said they would look into it, but did not commit. Lyndon filed to intervene in the case shortly after UPC Wind in February petitioned for a permit for the project with the Vermont Public Service Board, but according to Bruce James, chairman of Lyndon’s select board, it was less an act of opposition than a request to stay informed.
“Our intent of filing in the first place is we wanted to have a ticket to the dance,” James said, adding a public vote would be necessary to oppose the project. But he indicated concern about the wind farm, saying, “We all feel it is important not to kill the golden goose the Northeast Kingdom has.”
That leaves Sutton representatives to seek other funding sources because Sutton officials last week halted all legal spending to oppose the wind farm until voters can hold a public hearing on whether to allocate more money for the purpose in response to a petition.
“What we’ve done in town is sort of pass the hat,” said Bob Michaud, Sutton Planning Commission chairman who said Sutton selectmen authorized him to speak for the town on wind issues. “We came up with $4,300 (and) we’re out searching for more funds.”
Sutton selectmen would not allow the $4,300 to go toward future legal proceedings until they settled roughly $5,000 in unpaid legal fees, though, Michaud said. About $1,000 still remains unpaid.
But after developer UPC Wind proposed major changes to the original proposal, the town wants to thoroughly review the new plan’s impact, Michaud said. The appeal is urgent according to Michaud because those participating in PSB proceedings have a week, until Oct. 10, to comment on a rebuttal filing announced last week by UPC Wind.
The new project proposal cuts out 10 wind turbines, raises individual turbine height including blades from 398-feet to 420-feet, and re-routes access routes, according to UPC project manager Matt Kearns. Changes also reduce the amount of turbines located in Sutton from six to two. The steps were taken to address some of opponents’ concerns about visual and aesthetic impacts and the size of the project, UPC officials said.
Lyndon’s James agreed to authorize Municipal Administrator Art Sanborn to look into it, but James said the board would not commit funds until they get more information. As one of the towns with several prominent views of the proposed utility-scale wind farm, James suggested they might collaborate in the future, though, if the public supports it.
“The board is agreeing with contacting the attorney to see what (he says) and to see if other Northeast Kingdom folks can come up with the cash,” James said.
Sutton representatives also plan to seek funds from Kirby, Westmore and Barton because they are other towns within 10 miles of the project who filed to intervene in the case.
By Carla Occaso Times Argus Staff
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