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Derby board seeks help on turbine tax bill  

Credit:  Robin Smith, Staff Writer, The Orleans Record, orleanscountyrecord.com 5 October 2011 ~~

The Derby Board of Selectmen wants to know how much the town should tax industrial-scale wind turbine owners.

Selectmen Monday evening asked lister Sue Best, who was in the audience, to find out what the state tax experts have to say about wind turbines.

“It is a quandary,” Best said.

Derby is facing what towns in other parts of the Northeast Kingdom have already dealt with – a future with wind turbines as part of the landscape and a potential annual payment from the wind turbine owners.

Two 425-foot turbines are proposed for two farms on the hills between Interstate 91 in Derby Line and the rolling hills of Holland. The turbines will be visible on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border.

Lowell, Sheffield and Sutton have already made decisions about how much money to make off turbines in their communities. The towns cut deals with developers before permits were sought or ground broken.

The Lowell Board of Selectmen cut a deal with Green Mountain Power for about $500,000 annually for the town for 25 years, dependant on the amount of power generated by the 21 turbines of Kingdom Community Wind. The payments would begin once the turbines start to generate electricity.

The Derby wind project with two turbines is about 10 percent of the size of the Lowell wind project.

Encore Redevelopment officials, the lead partner of the Derby wind project, said at a meeting this summer that a payment to Derby that is 10 percent of the Lowell payment, or about $50,000, would be in the ballpark.

Encore is also considering smaller “good neighbor” payments to other communities in the “view shed” of the wind turbines, including the village of Derby Line and Stanstead, Quebec.

Best said she and her fellow Derby listers will meet soon with a state tax expert and also find out how other towns are handling wind turbine taxes. She hopes to have information for selectmen at the board’s next meeting.

Selectmen Chairman Brian Smith said the project would cost $13 million to construct, but charging taxes on construction costs is not usually how the town appraises property.

Meanwhile, Selectman Karen Jenne, who has announced her opposition to the wind turbines, asked the rest of the board to review how the wind turbines would impact the town.

Jenne said the developers have formally announced their intention to seek a certificate of public good from the Vermont Public Service Board and have asked the town to comment on the project by or before Oct. 20.

Jenne wanted selectmen to ask the planning commission to look at how the turbines fit into the town plan and zoning and to look at the impact on roads and town taxes.

The rest of the board and two planning commission members in the audience rebuffed her request.

Commission members said the town plan doesn’t say anything about wind turbines. And they said they didn’t have time to review it because their next meeting is Oct. 26.

And the other selectmen were reluctant to get into the same type of situation they experienced this summer, with meetings dominated by debate on the controversial new wireless tower on Nelson Hill Road.

Selectman Laura Dolgin asked Jenne if the town even had jurisdiction.

“I do not want to go through the same experience. That did no one any good service,” Dolgin said.

Jenne said that there are many questions that need to be asked about the wind turbine project.

She argued the board would find it easier to comment during this period than to seek to be an active party in the Act 248 utility review process before the PSB.

Dolgin remained adamant, saying the planning commission doesn’t have the capacity to review the wind turbines. She told Jenne to pursue it herself.

Smith told Jenne to report back to the board in two weeks about what her research had turned up.

Meanwhile, Smith said the Derby wind developers would meet with the town council in Stanstead this week.

Selectman Steve Gendreau, supervisor of the town road crew, said the developers would need to get a new overweight permit for town roads. The permit they have has expired.

Source:  Robin Smith, Staff Writer, The Orleans Record, orleanscountyrecord.com 5 October 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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