With the re-adoption this week of the current version of the Waitsfield Town Plan, fears of a massive array of 500 wind towers on the Northfield Ridge can be laid to rest – for now.
Under Vermont law, towns must update their Town Plans every five years, but towns have the option of re-adopting the old version while planners and planning consultants rewrite and revise plans.
That is where Waitsfield is at – the planning commission and its consultant, with significant public input, are rewriting the Town Plan. Meanwhile, the town select board re-adopted the old plan at its July 26 hearing.
The re-adopted plan includes a specific prohibition on commercial wind farming above 1,700 feet in elevation on the Northfield Ridge. That re-adopted plan now stays in place until the revisions of the new plan are finalized and put forth for approval.
The planning commission has twice stated publicly, at well-attended hearings, that the new Town Plan will not soften that prohibition on commercial wind farming above 1,700 feet on the Northfield Ridge.
The new plan, when it is complete, will be subject to a public hearing process at the planning commission level, then approved by the planning commission before it is sent to the select board. The select board will review the new Town Plan, warn and hold a public hearing and adopt or reject or amend the new document. If the amendments are significant, the public review process is triggered again.
The process does not take place in the dark.
But it is interesting to note that in 2009 correspondence between the town and the Vermont Land Trust regarding covenants that govern the town-owned Scrag Mountain forest on the Northfield Ridge, the town asked the Land Trust to include language that might – in the future – allow wind turbines.
That is not to say that wind turbines could be constructed there because the Town Plan still trumps any easements/covenants on that parcel of land. That July 2009 letter from the town, though, does set the stage for the important community dialogue that has to take place about wind power in The Valley.
The re-adopted Town Plan and the new Town Plan prohibit commercial wind farming on the ridge, but only until they expire. The dialogue that has begun is critical and must go further.
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