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PSB Delays Hearings On Wind Farm

Changes to a proposed wind farm in Sheffield and Sutton have led the Public Service Board to delay technical hearings on the case.

Hearings had been set to begin in early December, but have now been rescheduled for late January and early February, according to a PSB memorandum.

UPC Vermont Wind is seeking approval from the PSB to install two 420-foot wind turbines on Norris Mountain in Sutton and another 14 similar turbines in Sheffield.

The developer filed an amended petition with the board Oct. 13, reducing the number of turbines while increasing the height. Turbines originally planned for Hardscrabble Mountain in Sheffield have been eliminated.

This change in plans also changed the route trucks will take to bring in the turbine parts and blades, which has led Barton trustees to seek the right to intervene in the PSB hearings. The new route will leave Interstate 91 at Exit 25 through Barton to New Duck Pond Road.

In a letter to the PSB dated Oct. 20, David Snedeker, chairman of the Barton Trustees, wrote: “The overweight and over-length vehicles that would be needed during construction could seriously damage village roads and streets, low-hanging utility lines, and related water and sewer infrastructure.”

At the time the letter was written, trustees had not been contacted by UPC about their plans, Snedeker wrote. Since then, a meeting has been scheduled for Nov. 13 beginning at 7 p.m. in the Barton Memorial Building.

Erik Filkorn, spokesman for UPC, said Tuesday that Barton selectmen would also attend the meeting. But Barton Town Clerk Katherine White said Tuesday she was not aware of any such meeting.

“My board has not called a selectman’s meeting for [Nov.] 13,” White said.

Conflicting Meetings

A special town meeting in Sutton has been scheduled for Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. to vote on whether the town should continue to pay legal fees to fight the wind project. At the same time, the PSB has scheduled a public hearing on the project in neighboring Sheffield.

“When the town set the date, we didn’t know about the Public Service Board meeting,” Sutton Town Clerk Dorreen Devenger said. “I guess the meeting will be short.”

Sutton residents voted 120-23 during town meeting in March against the wind project. The town hired Norwich attorney Daniel Hershenson in May to represent it during PSB hearings. The lawyer’s fees reached $35,000 by July, and in August, selectmen told Hershenson to stop acting on behalf of the town.

The warning for the Nov. 8 meeting asks: “Will the voters of Sutton appropriate funds to continue to fund a lawyer to oppose the UPC Sheffield-Sutton wind project in the town of Sutton and if so, how much?”

Red Balloons

A site visit to areas around the proposed project has also been scheduled for Nov. 8 beginning at 9:30 a.m. This time, three large red balloons will be flown at 420 feet, marking the ends and middle of where the proposed turbines will be erected, according to Filkorn. These balloons are actually dirigibles kept aloft via hot air fueled by gas. They will be up for the one day.

During the first site visit on Oct. 6, no demonstration balloons were flown, which did not sit well with Arthur Sanborn, municipal administrator for the town of Lyndon. At the time, Sanborn said: “Looking at ridge lines with no point of reference is meaningless.”

Sanborn wrote to the PSB in October on behalf of the town requesting that the balloons stay aloft for at least five days so the general public can see them. Lyndon filed for party status in the hearings stating the proposed turbines would have a negative impact on the town, economically and aesthetically.

UPC responded to Lyndon’s request by saying a prolonged demonstration would be “infeasible, unduly expensive and unnecessary.”

“Lyndon’s request also seems to misconstrue the purpose of the balloon demonstration,” UPC attorney, Andrew Raubvogel, wrote to the board. “The balloons are only meant to mark the location of an individual wind turbine or the limits of a wind turbine string, and to help determine their visibility from certain locations. They are not meant to simulate the aesthetic impact of the turbines.”

By Jeanne Miles, Staff Writer