LOWELL – The heat generated by the industrial wind project proposed for Lowell Mountain is reflected in a small land transaction that happened in June.
The land, 66 acres high on Lowell Mountain, isn’t part of the project proposed by Green Mountain Power (GMP). But it sits next to the north end of the project, and is a potential site for future wind development.
The sellers are a town selectman and his sister, a member of the board of Vermont Electric Cooperative (VEC), which would buy some of the project’s power from GMP.
“We decided to break our ties with the wind project,” Selectman Alden Warner said of the decision to sell the land. “We had gotten so much harassment, accusing me of milking the project. People said I was trying to line my own pockets. People were saying the reason I was supporting the project was me getting some benefits at a later date.”
Mr. Warner said his sister, Priscilla Matten, also felt pressure as a member of the VEC board.
The land was sold at its town-appraised value of $39,100 to the sister of Trip Wileman, who owns most of the Lowell Mountain ridgeline and is chiefly responsible for bringing the wind project to town.
The land was sold on June 22 to the Brooke Stover Wileman irrevocable trust, according to Lowell town records. Ms. Wileman lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, and the property transfer tax return is signed by Mr. Wileman as trustee of her trust.
Ms. Wileman apparently made a $10,000 downpayment, and the sellers are holding a $29,100 mortgage, town records show.
They also show that the Warners and the Mattens bought the land in 1999, before wind power was seriously proposed on Lowell Mountain. The price was $16,000, just above its listed value of $15,600. The seller was an adjoining landowner, Kevin McGrath, who bought the parcel in 1988.
Mr. Warner said Monday that, while his nephew harvested some timber on the land, it was not easy to get to. “We had no right-of-way to it,” the selectman said.
Mr. Wileman said buying the adjoining timberland made financial sense, and that he will manage it as part of his company, Moose Mountain Forestry. At $592 an acre, the land cost less than its value as timberland, Mr. Wileman said.
Once the family decided to sell the parcel, Mr. Warner said, he offered it to three adjoining landowners who had expressed an interest in buying it. They were Mr. Wileman, Mr. McGrath, and Stowe attorney David Stackpole.
Both Mr. Stackpole and Mr. McGrath have expressed strong opposition to the GMP project.
In a January 22 e-mail supplied to the Chronicle by Mr. Wileman, Mr. Warner, Ms. Matten and their spouses invited the three neighbors to make offers on the property in sealed envelopes.
“Our plan is to open the envelopes at the Lowell town clerk’s office on Feb. 8th at 9:00 A.M. and to accept the largest offer over the town appraisal, if there is one,” the e-mail to Mr. Wileman said.
None of the neighbors submitted a bid, Mr. Warner said.
Some months later, Mr. Wileman said, he asked Mr. Warner if the land was still available, and the selectman said it could be had at its appraised value.
“My sister was the one who had the money,” Mr. Wileman said. “Her trust bought it.”
The property transfer tax return on the transaction is dated June 22.
At 5:30 that evening the Lowell Selectmen convened at a regular meeting. According to the minutes, also supplied by Mr. Wileman, Mr. Warner outlined the deal for his fellow selectmen, Richard Pion and Dwight Richardson.
The minutes read that Mr. Warner “stated that him, his sister and Trip Wileman had come to a buy/sell agreement on the 66-acre parcel that adjoined Trip’s property, near the proposed wind project and wanted to know if the board felt there was any conflict interest, or potential problems they could see in doing so.”
The minutes continue: “He explained that the reason for selling was because of the allegations that have been implied with him being on the select board and she being on the V.E.C. board of directors.”
The minutes of the June 22 meeting conclude: “Richard Pion and Dwight Richardson both stated that they could see no problem or any conflict of interest in regards to the sale of the property.”
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