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Residents speak out on wind project

WEST RUTLAND – Residents are concerned about a proposed wind project at the top of Grandpa’s Knob and want answers from the developer.

At a public meeting with town officials on Monday, about 18 West Rutland residents voiced their concerns regarding the project that included the impact on property taxes in town, the blasting of the ridgeline for wind turbines, and the road and its affects on the town’s wells and farms.

Reunion Power, based in Manchester, has proposed a project that would install up to 20 wind turbines along the Grandpa’s Knob ridgeline in West Rutland, Castleton, Hubbardton and Pittsford. Grandpa’s Knob was the site of the first megawatt-scale wind turbine in 1941, which was discontinued after several malfunctions and a wartime parts shortage.

“I am not sure how I feel about the project. I don’t know if I can look at them. I do have concerns. This is a really big issue and we have to look at it for the town,” said John Harvey, Select Board chairman.

Town Manager Mary Ann Goullete said she has had some informal conversations with the project developer, but the town had not had a public discussion with them for at least two years.

“They have not presented to us,” she said. “We are learning as we go along.”

She said from the town’s perspective, there are many concerns but understands there are still some benefits to the project including having a large taxpayer in town.

“Money is the biggest issue. We have a substation that is the biggest taxpayer,” Goullete said. “There are a lot of positives and negatives.”

Selectman Nick Notte compared the process to when the town was first approached regarding the Amtrak train running through town years ago. He said they are sitting in the blind until more information is available.

“I didn’t know that it was going to rattle my house every time it goes by,” he said.

Reunion Power, which also has an office in New Jersey, acquired the project after closing a deal with the previous developer, Noble Environmental Power, in late 2009 with the plans of moving forward with it.

Earlier this year, it was revealed the state Agency of Natural Resources was concerned the proposed project would have negative environmental impacts on a section of the Taconic Range, where the project is planned. That section of the mountain top is considered a “rare, irreplaceable natural area” by the state.

At the time, Steve Eisengberg, managing director with Reunion Power, said they met with the state to discuss the concerns and were still gathering information regarding the project’s development, which would include the number of turbines and their locations, as well as the number of roads along the mountain.

The company has not submitted any applications with the state for the project.

Harvey said the board is doing its research and looking at the other proposed wind projects across the state and the region, including the projects in Sheffield and Lowell. He encouraged residents to do the same and raise their questions at an upcoming public meeting with the developer.

Representatives from Reunion Power are scheduled to hold a public meeting in May in West Rutland.