NEWARK –A group of property owners are beginning a grass roots effort to block a possible wind farm in town.
The resident and non-resident property owners want to prevent the erection of a nearly 200-foot tall meteorological tower on Hawk Rock on Packer Mountain. They hope that if they can stop the test tower, they can prevent a proposed wind farm from being built.
The parking lot of the Newark Street School was filled with cars Friday, and inside the multi-purpose room the chairs were filled, as people strategized about what to do next. A blog has been created, a phone campaign started, and petitions are being circulated door-to-door.
Every Friday night, the growing group gathers to build momentum and fight harder, as one resident said they must, than nearby Sheffield did. Sheffield is now home to 16 turbines, the largest industrial scale wind farm in Vermont thus far.
Ben Banks opened Friday’s meeting, which was attended by about 40 people. The group was updated on the 30-day window the owners of Eolian Renewable Energy, parent of Seneca Mountain Wind, have before the state’s Public Service Board to obtain permission to erect a meteorological tower here. The met tower, as it is known, is a precursor for a possible wind farm in the region. Three other towers are proposed in Brighton and Ferdinand as part of the research for a possible wind project.
That 30-day window expires May 14, the group was told.
Petitions for now will focus on the met tower, though there was much discussion about eventual petitions to fight a wind farm, since that’s what’s on everyone’s minds. Two separate petitions began circulation Friday evening, one for resident property owners, one for non-resident property owners. Newark is home to many camps, and people own large tracts of land here, but many reside full-time elsewhere in Vermont or out of state.
The petitions cite the “undue adverse effect on the natural environment that cannot be mitigated,” and the fact that the area where the met tower is proposed forms the backdrop of one of the town’s most important conservation areas.
“Everyone says we can’t stop it,” said resident Noreen Hession, who believes the met tower, if approved, could be up from six months to five years. “Get everybody in Newark who is against this to sign,” she urged her neighbors. The petitions will go to town officials, then to the Vermont Public Service Board, she said.
There was urgency to launch the petition drive. “Here’s the thing, the deck is stacked against us,” said Hession. “We have 30 days from when they apply to when the PSB says ‘yes’ or ‘no.'” Hession urged the group to have petitions returned and into the planning commission by the end of this week “so they can include them in their response to the public service board.”
The group’s name is Newark Neighbors United. Friday night marked their third gathering in the Newark Street School; they plan to meet every Friday night at 7 p.m. There blog is newarkneighborsunited.blogspot.com.
Of the citizen campaign to protest, Hession explained to the group their rights to become an “interested person,” as part of the PSB process, to attend a hearing, to request an intervention. “I think these people need to know everyone cares,” she said.
Several different petitions were read aloud and the group decided in the end to focus only on the met tower for now, not talk about wind turbines. “If the met tower goes in, we still have time to go back and talk to them (property owners) again, the more we talk to people who are for them or who are on the fence, the more likely we are to convince them,” said Ben Banks.
“It seems like the more you know about them, the less you like them,” added Hession.
The partners of the New Hampshire company hoping to site a met tower in Newark have been paying visits to individuals in Newark, one resident said and trying to arrange meetings with more.
Resident Claire Van Vliet said people should find out if they are being taxed for a view, as more wind turbines come into peoples’ views. “If you see those towers, and I do, find out whether any part of your taxes is a view tax and grieve that,” she advised. “I think that’s very important. … Everybody up here on this plateau, it’s going to be right in your face.”
Lyndonville resident Vincent Matteis, who owns a camp on Center Pond, said Gov. Howard Dean came to Newark in 1995 to celebrate the preservation of some 700 acres along Center Pond for future generations. Now, he said, that preserved, pristine area is in jeopardy. He said Governor Shumlin, an advocate of wind power, may end up being known for destroying the Vermont’s mountains.
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