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Blow back in Newark: Residents challenge wind test plans

NEWARK – More than 70 people, mostly residents of Newark, turned out for a planning commission meeting on Wednesday night where three principals of a wind farm company came to discuss their preliminary plans.

The three developers – Travis Bullard, Jack Kenworthy and John Soininen all of Eolian Renewable Energy of Portsmouth, N.H. – were asked point blank by resident Lisa Grout if they would pack up and leave if the residents were unified in asking them to go away.

“I’ll start your car!” shouted out James Bellangee.

Kenworthy, the chief executive officer of the company that has proposed erecting four temporary meteorological test towers that are a precursor for a possible wind farm, said if the town were unified in its opposition that would give the firm and its investing partner cause to re-evaluate, but he did not say it would be reason to abandon the plans.

What is now called for is one tower in Newark, two in Brighton, and one in Ferdinand. The towers would gather data, Kenworthy told the group Wednesday, to test conditions and help the company determine the viability of a wind farm in the region. One resident asked if the conditions at the “Hawk Rock” site in Newark were less than ideal, could Newark be off the table, and he was told that was possible.

Planning Commission Chairman Kim Fried opened the meeting explaining the agenda, posted next to him and on the door, with time frames for each agenda item.

Copies of the Newark Town Plan were laid on a back table, and were all given out in a short period of time. Fried read from its vision statement, finishing to applause: “Newark is a rural town with a beautiful natural setting. Woodlands, open fields, hills, scenic vistas, clean water and air, and clean streams and pristine ponds make Newark a unique and pleasant community to visit and live in. The environment is clean and healthy. It is these characteristics which the Town of Newark intends to protect and preserve.”

“I know that a lot of people are confused. A lot of people I’ve spoken to or heard from are somewhat confused about what’s going on,” continued Fried. He then gave a chronological update of what he referred to as “the 10 most significant events in the planning commission’s perspective in the last 30 plus a couple of days.”

Fried added, “I would say it’s probably also the most important event that the planning commission has ever seen in Newark. A lot has gone on, and we know for sure there’s going to be a lot more coming.”

It started on March 7.

“Before March 7, I loved everything about my life,” said town resident Noreen Hession on Thursday.

It was the day after the Annual Town Meeting, Fried went on, “we received what’s called a 30 day advance notice of four proposed meteorological towers,” filed with the state and the communities poised to see those towers erected. That is a legal document, explained Fried.

“Part of that notice is that we had 30 days to respond to Seneca Mountain Wind (the limited liability corporation created by Eolian for the project) with any comments or inquiries, so the clock started ticking,” he said.

A second company, Nordex USA is partnering with Eolian and investing in the project, but they did not send anyone to Wednesday’s meeting.

Within the past month, the group from Eolian has begun leasing a significant tract of land in Newark now, too, more than 2,000 acres, he said, in just the past three to four weeks.

The total clearing for all four proposed tower sites would be 1.3 acres, he said.

The first to speak was Noreen Hession. She accused the developers of downplaying what the met towers indicate. “In some ways, this is really misleading, the ‘Oh we’re just going to clear a few acres and cover it over with mulch…’ You’ve started out by lying to this community, and I’m very disappointed,” she said.

“We have acknowledged that met towers are precursors to a wind facility,” responded Kenworthy.

“But if we can stop that tower, we can stop the wind facility,” said Hession.

Mallory Jacob, a young woman, was near tears when she asked, her parents sitting beside her also looking torn, “What gives you the right to ruin our home?”

Not everyone who spoke was against the possibility of a wind farm coming to the town and surrounding area. “I’ve been to the top of the Sheffield wind site…they didn’t blow the top of the mountain off, in fact, they did a nice job,” said Ken Gammell of Newark, who identified himself as living “off the grid.”

Eolian’s projects are under development, so they have not yet opened a wind farm, the company officials verified when questioned. Nordex USA, their partner, has multiple successful projects in operation, stressed Kenworthy.

Paul Brouha of Sutton, posed his question to John Soininen, one of the developers, whose parents live in Newark.

“My parents and I have different views on wind power,” answered Soininen. He said he believes with global climate change that the need to pursue renewables is among “the defining issues of our lifetime…we all have a very strong responsibility to curb our unreasonable reliance on fossil fuels,” he said.

Randie Fox pointed out people recycle, are against burning trash, and are “looking at ways to make our environment healthier,” and she said renewables are a piece of that. “I just think we should give a little more consideration to the grand scheme of things…this is the direction we’re going,” she said. “And I think some of you are abusing your power by standing up there and being very subjective with your opinions, and I don’t think that’s okay,” she said to several people’s applause.

Fried responded, “What we’re trying to do is understand a very complicated subject…The industrialization of Newark.”