DERBY LINE – If Bryan Davis wanted to prove that the hilltops outside Derby Line get an adequate supply of fuel for a proposed pair of large-scale wind turbines, he couldn’t have picked a better day for a site visit than Monday. And if he had any doubts that his neighbors have strong and varied opinions about the project, he surely didn’t anymore after a two-and-a-half-hour hearing later that evening.
Chad Farrell, who heads Encore Redevelopment, hopes to build one 430-foot tower on the aptly named Grandview Farm, owned by Mr. Davis and his wife, Sue, and another nearby on Jonathan and Jayne Chase’s Smuggler’s Hill Farm. Mr. Farrell and Mr. Davis led a caravan of cars up to the windswept hilltop where Grandview Farm’s small turbine was hard at work. They pointed across a small valley to the hill on Mr. Chase’s property where the second tower is planned to be built.
A group of about 15 people, including Public Service Board (PSB) staffers, and local officials then drove a loop that took them from the Holland Elementary School to Highland Avenue in Derby Line to check existing views of the tower sites. Mr. Farrell brought photographs that he said simulated the view with the new turbines.
Landscape architect Jean Vissering, who will evaluate the aesthetic impacts of towers for the PSB, took photographs at every stop. And lawyer Richard Saudek, who once headed the PSB and was the first commissioner of the Department of Public Service, was on hand representing the interests of the towns of Derby and Holland and the village of Derby Line.
The same evening well over 100 people gathered in the gym at the Derby Elementary School in Derby Line to offer their opinions to the PSB. John Cotter, who is serving as hearing officer for the PSB, was ill, and his place was taken by Mary Jo Krolewski, who also is on the PSB staff.
Ms. Krolewski, who was joined by PSB lawyer Jake Marren, opened the meeting by explaining that matters brought up by speakers at the meeting would not constitute formal evidence. Instead, she said, the PSB would take the information it gathered into account when deciding what questions need to be answered before a decision is reached.
Mr. and Mrs. Davis were the first speakers. Mr. Davis said he has lived on Grandview Farm since his father bought the land in 1959. The land on which the turbine would be sited was added to the farm in 1978, he said.
He said that after he put up his small turbine he realized the potential for the site to generate power. But he learned the cost of a single turbine was between $5-million and $6-million dollars, he said.
“Sue and I are not gamblers, we realized we could not take a loan out for that amount,” Mr. Davis said. He looked for a business partner and found Mr. Farrell and his venture capital firm.
Mr. Davis described Mr. Farrell as being very “upfront” in their dealings.
He said that he has done a great deal of research and talked to farmers in New York State who reported no problems with their health or that of their animals.
Mr. Davis said he hoped everyone would feel comfortable with the turbines once the PSB’s decision-making process is done.
Mrs. Davis described herself and Mr. Davis as “very community minded people.” She told the crowd that they care deeply about their dairy herd and assured them that “we would never do anything to jeopardize their health, or that of our family or our neighbors.”
Opposition to the project quickly made itself known. Charles Gross, a Derby Line resident, couched his concerns in the form of a fable in which Mr. Coal, Ms. Gas and Mr. Nuke were faithful employees, but Mr. Wind was an unreliable worker, who does not always show up when expected.
“Personally, I would never hire Mr. Wind, ever,” Mr. Gross concluded.
Derby Line Village Trustee Keith Beadle voiced his strong support for the Davis’ project as did Ernie Emmerson and Ron Patenaude.
In expressing his strong concerns, Dick Fletcher, another Derby Line resident, raised issues that were repeated by most opponents of the project.
Mr. Fletcher said he is worried that the large industrial wind turbines will harm the health of nearby residents. He cited a study conducted in Falmouth, Massachusetts, that found infrasound waves, which cannot be heard, can cause nausea, dizziness, clouded thinking, and loss of sleep in those exposed to them.
Those who conducted such studies, he said, recommend that turbines be built at least two kilometers, a little more than a mile, away from the nearest residence. There are many houses within that distance of the proposed turbines, he said.
Mr. Fletcher also said he expects the presence of the turbines in the area to cause a drop in local property values.
Derby Selectman Karen Jenne, who said she spoke for herself, added concerns about national security and water supply to the list.
Ms. Jenne said she worries that aircraft warning lights that will top the wind towers could serve as beacons for smugglers or terrorists who hope to sneak into the U.S. Further, she said, the large structures might be prohibited by the Department of Homeland Security as obstacles in the way of their plans to use unmanned drones to keep an eye on the border.
She also said blasting may disturb the lines of the International Water Company, which brings water to Derby Line and Stanstead.
Ms. Jenne’s colleague, Brian Smith, who is chairman of the Derby Selectmen, rose to support the turbines, and also said he spoke as a private citizen.
A number of speakers, including Derby resident Daria Mondesire and Mike Nelson of Albany, said large wind developers are responsible for great harm in the U.S. and elsewhere. They said the companies’ need for rare earths to produce turbines has sickened people in China where they are mined.
Nevertheless, no one expressed hostility toward the Davis family.
Even Maureen Fountain who closed the meeting with an impassioned plea for the PSB to hold off on granting a certificate of public good until all the concerns expressed at the meeting are fully resolved, concluded her remarks by looking at Mr. and Mrs. Davis, who were seated in the front row, and wishing them well.
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