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Wilton board vetoes wind turbines

The town of Wilton said no to wind turbines Tuesday, but the issue is almost certainly headed for the courts.

By a 2-1 vote, the board vetoed a conditional use permit issued May 24 by the Monroe County Sanitation, Planning & Zoning Committee that would allow Summit Ridge Energy to construct eight to 10 wind turbines in the township.

Board member Jan Brandau cast the dissenting vote. Town Chairman Ricky Irwin and board member Timothy O’Rourke favored the veto.

Irwin lifted a folder containing 41 letters opposing the wind towers. He said there were no letters in support.

“The consensus has been overwhelming to veto it,” Irwin said.

Irwin’s veto resolution cited health and safety concerns, including “noise, ice throw, shadow flickers and possibly other impacts.” Irwin suggested he was open to an ordinance with stricter setback provisions but noted the board could only approve or veto the permit in its entirety.

An attorney for Summit Ridge contends the town doesn’t even have that authority. Raymond Roder said the town can’t block permits in a “piecemeal” manner and can only consider factors cited by the county. He said after the meeting that Summit Ridge will file suit to overturn the board’s decision.

“The board can’t vote on health and safety concerns the county doesn’t recognize,” Roder said.

Bill Blackmore, site developer for Invenergy, the parent company of Summit Ridge, raised the issue of private property rights.

“For the town board to tell (landowners) they can’t do this is a travesty,” Blackmore said. “(Turbines) are clean, renewable energy, and they don’t bother anybody.”

Stanley Graewin, one of four town of Wilton citizens to speak, said the turbines would undermine the agricultural nature of the township.

“Veto it – keep it out of here,” Graewin said. “We have a nice community. It has been zoned as agricultural – keep it as agricultural.”

Prior to the open discussion, Irwin was forced to deal with a conflict-of-interest charge. Roder submitted a letter Monday asking that Irwin recuse himself because of his active opposition to the turbines, which includes lobbying the county board, membership in an organization opposed to the turbines and attempts to get landowners to revoke easements with Summit Ridge.

“That you could have taken such expressly opposing positions against the project in the past and could now approach this matter with the open mind required by the law seems humanly impossible,” Roder wrote. “Your recusal is the only sure means by which some degree of impartiality can be demonstrated.”

Irwin bristled at the charges. He produced a letter from attorney Glen Stoddard that stated Irwin has no financial stake in the project and is concerned only with the health and safety of township residents.

“I have a duty to consider this and take a vote on this issue,” Irwin said. “Personally, I feel it’s pretty offensive. Nobody appreciates anyone trying to hijack this board meeting or intimidate any of its members.”

Wilton is the second Monroe County township to reject wind towers in just over a month. The town of Ridgeville May 5 rejected a similar permit approved by the county.

By Steve Rundio

The Tomah Journal

14 June 2007