BARTON – The war over wind raged on this week, as the Barton area’s Ladies Improvement Society pressed the Barton Select Board for any means to stop commercial wind development in town.
Though no commercial wind projects are being proposed for the Orleans County town, the 10 or so women who attended a Monday night select board meeting want to ensure that stopgaps are in place in case a project should be proposed. The group doesn’t even want wind developers to drive heavy trucks through Barton for other projects.
Their call for action comes in the form of a successful recent petition drive which asks that the town plan be changed to ban commercial and industrial wind power. The drive is in response to a large wind project planned for nearby Sheffield.
Though the petition is a matter for the Planning Commission, which is in the process of updating the town plan, the Ladies Improvement Society attended Monday’s select board meeting to discuss their concerns and make sure the correct process is being followed. But despite the board’s best efforts to limit discussion, the evening turned into a debate of sorts over whether industrial-scale wind is beneficial or not.
Selectmen, however, told the group that a community-wide discussion will have to happen on the issue, because there are many in town who support renewable energy. Though they don’t have the passion the anti-wind group has and don’t attend meetings, there are many who don’t want to see wind banned, select board Chairman Robert Croteau said.
Additionally, the issue is in the hands of the planning commission at this point, and is not yet a select board matter, Croteau said.
Planning commission Chairman Jay Dudley attending the meeting said the commission is discussing putting two items on a future ballot: a question on whether to ban commercial and industrial wind (in response to the ladies society petition) and a question on whether to include language that specifically includes windmills in the town plan. Whatever won voter approval would be included in the new town plan.
“There are good arguments on both sides,” Dudley said. “That’s why we want to put it to the voters.”
JoAn Stefanski, speaking on behalf of the Ladies Improvement Society, encouraged town leaders to follow the law and get hearings about their petition under way as soon as possible. She pointed to the fact that the petition passed easily, and that the only people at the well-publicized meeting are against large-scale wind.
Mary Scarpa, who takes minutes for the select board, countered that there was someone there for wind. Speaking as a voter and not an employee, she shared her point of view.
“Until somebody, some organization or some group or some business comes forward with some other form of renewable energy, I’m for wind towers. It’s as simple as that.” With global warming and the cost of electricity, she said, “We can’t continue to go the way we are going.”
The planning commission will continue discussing the petition and vote and how it will coincide with the upcoming town plan, Dudley said.
The Ladies Improvement Society asked the board to consider banning heavy trucks from using Barton roads to get to the UPC Wind project in Sheffield. Trucks weighing or carrying loads over certain limits must gain town approval before using roads.
Croteau said that the town grants large load permits all the time, and could not just ban wind trucks.
“You can say no,” Stefanski said – state statute allows towns to govern their road weight permits.
Croteau said that while the town could technically say no, it wouldn’t be right to just say no to certain companies. That could invite a lawsuit.
“We haven’t even been asked,” Croteau said. He said the town will consider the trucks’ impact once permits are applied for.
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