NEWPORT, VT – In a continuation of last week’s battle between Don and Shirley Nelson and Green Mountain Power (GMP), attorneys for the parties examined and cross-examined a number of witnesses Tuesday, including two local surveyors, Paul Hannon and Norbert Blais.
Don Nelson is arguing that Blais’ original survey of the property line between Nelson and Benjamin “Trip” Wileman, where the GMP wind powers are being constructed, was inaccurate and that a property agreement between Nelson and Wileman was arrived at unfairly.
Paul Hannon, who testified for Nelson, agreed that the map was inconclusive as to the actual location of the line and that it was possible that GMP was constructing the wind towers, in part, on Nelson’s land. Blais testified to the work he originally done on the property line.
GMP attorneys, for their part, grilled Nelson on his involvement with the protest movement, claiming he colluded with protesters to slow down or stop construction of the wind towers. They asked him why the protesters were using aliases, to which he responded that they didn’t want people to know their identities.
Nelson returned the volley by asking the court to order a restraining order against GMP, but GMP attorneys argued that Nelson had missed his opportunity to counter on the issue.
Nelson farmed the 600-acre area of land until 1997, when he retired. His attorney said some of the towers are about 100 feet from Nelson’s property line.
Nelson testified that members of Sterling College had been using the land for their winter survival training for years. A number of the protesters are from Sterling College, where protesters reportedly met last week to organize a “civil disobedience” stand against the construction of the towers.
Nelson heard about the civil disobedience training but didn’t go to it. He said told protesters that they could come on the property but not within 1000 feet of the blasting area and not to do anything to disturb the construction or get themselves in trouble, so that they would be in compliance with the existing temporary restraining order.
Nelson said he opposed the wind towers and was active in trying to stop the construction until last February when he basically concluded that “it was a losing battle.”
Nelson’s attorney argued that the Nelsons should not be restricted on where they should go on their land or how to use their land. He likened it to a restaurant taking over the parking lot next door and telling the owners of the lot that they can’t use it.
Steven Wright of Craftsbury, who has actively opposed the wind project, talked about the environmental impact of blasting on the mountains, wildlife, waterflow and vegetation.
The hearing lasted all day, and, at one point in the morning, members of the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department and the Vermont State Police arrived and asked the judge how they would execute a restraining order against the protesters if one was issued. The judge then instructed them to meet him in chambers, which drew criticism from Barton Chronicle Publisher Chris Braithwaite. Nevertheless, the meeting took place behind closed doors.
When the judge and police returned to the courtroom, the judge said that the police had brought up some good points and that they would all discuss it around noontime, but by the end of the day, the police and sheriff had not yet returned to the court.
Judge Martin Maley heard the testimony but has not yet issued a final ruling.
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