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Annual meeting straw poll: Derby Line opposes wind turbines

DERBY LINE – Voters in this border village on Tuesday rejected the idea of two proposed wind turbines on nearby farm fields.

The straw poll at the annual village meeting was definitive, at 24 opposed to the turbines to nine in favor by paper ballot.

The 33 voters also asked the Derby Line village trustees to take the results of the poll to the Derby Select Board and to state utility regulators on the Vermont Public Service Board.

The PSB is considering whether to issue two certificates of public good to Encore Redevelopment for two turbines in Derby on Grandview Farm and Smugglers Hill Farm, both near Interstate 91 and the U.S.-Canadian border between Derby Line and the town of Holland. The Derby Select Board has yet to vote on whether to challenge the project. The select board is negotiating a contract with Encore over annual tax payments and other issues.

The town and village both are parties to the PSB hearing process but village trustees warned residents that the village can only raise questions about the impact on its water supply and property value impacts.

And village trustees said that they would not spend taxpayer money to hire an attorney to fight the wind project.

Residents opposed to the project were outspoken at the meeting, which drew the traditionally small turnout despite the wind question on the warning.

“We feel Derby Line Wind Project should not be approved,” said local bed and breakfast co-owner Dick Fletcher.

He listed a series of problems that he turned up in online research about industrial-sized turbines. He and most of the others who stood to speak questioned the impacts on health and property values of large turbines on nearby homes and residents.

Others were more outspoken.

Pete Jacobs called the $15,000 annual payment offered to Derby Line by Encore “a bribe” that the village should reject.

Chris Blais said she has lived in a city and knows what a 40-story structure looks like. She has seen large turbines elsewhere in the U.S. but has not seen any so close to residential neighborhoods. Hundreds of homes are within two miles of the proposed turbine sites.

“I am all for power and we need it but do we have enough information to say we need it? I don’t think so,” Blais said.

Daria MonDesire called the turbines “a parasite on the grid” because they have to be backed up by on-demand natural gas power plants when the wind stops blowing. She said that the turbines draw electricity to operate when they are not generating.

“They are not green, that is a myth,” she said.

Derby Line Village Clerk Karen Jenne, who is also a Derby selectman, urged fellow voters to send a strong message to the Derby Select Board in opposition to the turbines.

She urged village residents to attend the April 16 select board meeting where the project will again be on the agenda.

Several supporters spoke up.

Beth Creaser said her property values are more affected by the proximity of her Caswell Avenue home to I-91 and the port of entry than by a turbine on the hill to the east.

“I personally support them,” she said.

Trustee Keith Beadle, the trustee living the closest to the Grandview Farm site, reiterated his support for renewable energy projects, including this one.

The trustees are divided on the issue, just like the Derby Select Board.

Trustee Roland “Buzzy” Roy said the trustees put the question on the warning to hear the villagers’ opinion.

“I neither support them or condone them,” Roy said.

Trustee Perry Hunt was emphatically opposed.

“I have a lot of concerns about these,” he said, noting that they are heavily subsidized by taxpayer money.

He called the $15,000 annual payment offered by Encore “an insult.”

“It’s nowhere near what it should be,” Hunt said.