When Dick and Joan Downing erected a 24-foot cross beside their private chapel on Darling Hill, a handful of neighbors came unhinged at what they called a desecration of the view from their homes. After a series of hearings, the District 7 Commission of the ANR ruled that the cross was “shocking and offensive,” and ordered it down.
Now comes an appeal from the Downing’s’ lawyer, arguing that the windmills going up in Sheffield are permitted, so why not the cross? When the Sheffield wind farm is finished, it will sport 16 windmills on a much higher ridge. Each will be more than 400 feet tall. The Downing lawyer’s question, and ours, too: If the Downing’s’ 24-foot cross is “shocking and offensive” enough to be ordered removed, why not the same judgment on the 400 foot windmills?
As we’ve said before, the case is illuminating because it highlights a double standard applied to wind farms and other liberal “green” projects compared to efforts not granted immunity by the politically correct.
That’s because, by legislative authority, the ANR environmental court decides in all cases like the Downing’s’ case, but the Public Service Board rules on “green power” issues. So a small cross is rejected after endless local and state hearings while a a ridge line that must be clear cut and bulldozed so that a dozen 400-foot tall wind towers (complete with flashing strobe lights) gets a pass.
If the criteria were objective or the environmental protection standards were consistent, then either the towers would have to go or the cross could clearly stay (interestingly, on aesthetic grounds we would allow the cross and blow up the towers).
Instead Vermont has created a regulatory climate in which the aesthetic impact of a project is decided by political favor. That’s hardly an objective standard and puts all state agencies in a position to force a subjective will on property owners, devoid of tangible parameters.
We’re certain that the state, forgiving itself the double standard and hypocrisy, will go to court claiming that its different agencies have separate missions and are, therefore, not governed by fairness or common sense. So we return to our original advice to the Downings. Erect a 400-foot wind turbine on your property and affix a lighted cross to the first 24 feet.
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