LOWELL – Green Mountain Power has offered to buy the farm owned by Lowell wind project opponents Don and Shirley Nelson for the listed price of $1.25 million.
The Nelsons rejected the initial offer and countered by raising the list price for their farm to $2.25 million, said GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure.
Meanwhile, GMP has threatened to sue the Nelsons for $1 million or more if they do not require campers on their property to move when blasting continues next week on the ridge line.
A revolving group of volunteers, including some students from Sterling College in Craftsbury, have occupied a small camp of tents on the edge of the Nelson property within several hundred feet of the wind project. They hope to stall or stop the 21-turbine wind project altogether.
Schnure said Wednesday she didn’t know how GMP would react to the Nelsons’ decision to raise the asking price for their farm.
Don Nelson, when asked Wednesday if he would sell his farm to GMP, said it would depend on GMP.
Nelson said he hasn’t decided how to respond to the lawsuit threat or whether he would ask the campers to move when blasting is scheduled near his property line.
“That’s their good neighbor policy,” Nelson said, declining to comment further on the situation.
GMP’s contractors are expected to begin blasting next week and continue for the next two or three weeks on the ridge line to prepare the crane path and turbine sites.
A stop-work order issued last week by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources about the need to complete storm-water runoff controls has been lifted, Schnure said. All the controls are now in place and approved, she said.
Contractors need a 1,000-foot buffer zone around the blasting sites, she said.
Rock is not expected to fly that far onto the Nelson property, she said, but regulations require the zone to be cleared during blasting.
“It’s all about keeping people safe,” she said.
In the letter, GMP’s attorney said that the Nelsons could be sued for intentionally interfering with the work on the wind project site and causing an increase in the costs of the project.
Schnure said the letter was sent in response to the letter that the Nelsons sent to GMP more than two weeks ago advising that they had allowed the tent camp to be set up.
“We would appreciate receiving written confirmation that no fly-rock from your blasting will trespass or intrude on our property and that nobody will be endangered,” the Nelsons wrote in their letter.
GMP had to respond, Schnure said.
“If they don’t move, we will be asking them to pay” for the increase in the costs to the project, a burden that ratepayers would have to shoulder, Schnure said.
Blasting is scheduled for once or twice a day, she said. The campers would have to move out for 15 minutes each time and could move back into the camp afterward, she said.
GMP began construction of the wind project in early fall and is on a timetable to have the turbines operating by the end of next year to secure federal production tax credits to keep rates low.
Opponents are appealing the project’s certificate of public good and other permits in an attempt to stop the project.
GMP still has to meet some conditions required by regulators on the Vermont Public Service Board before the project can go online.
GMP President and CEO Mary Powell and executive Robert Dostis “sat face to face” with the Nelsons Monday to talk about buying the farm, Schnure said.
GMP then made the $1.25 million offer with no conditions, she said.
In reaction, the Nelsons raised their list price by $1 million Tuesday. Then they received the GMP threat of a lawsuit.
This is the second time that GMP has been involved in an offer to buy the Nelson farm.
The Nelsons have been trying to sell the majestic 580-acre farm and its buildings on the historic Bailey-Hazen Road near Albany for years. They and their real estate agent have said repeatedly that buyers are scared off by the proximity to the wind project.
The PSB went to the farm as part of the review process last fall. The Nelsons would be able to see many of the wind project’s turbines from their property.
A year ago, GMP worked with wind farm property owner Trip Wileman and the Vermont Land Trust to contribute to a deal with another farmer and the Nelsons. The potential buyer, with financial help from Wileman, offered to pay $870,000 for the farm, less than the listed price at the time of $1.4 million.
The Nelsons learned during negotiations that Wileman was involved in facilitating the deal and pulled out.
GMP has bought out one abutting property owner.