DERBY – The Derby Select Board Monday evening decided to send its attorney on a fishing expedition “to smoke out” the Derby Line Wind Project developer and see if he is about to withdraw or delay the project.
Attorney Richard Saudek also said that he would alert state regulators on the Vermont Public Service Board that the town is divided and the board is increasingly opposed to the project.
“They’ve got to come to grips with it,” he said about the developer.
The board, pressured by opponents, shows little support for the project. In a motion for support of the project presented by Selectman Karen Jenne, Laura Dolgin voted in favor, Jenne and Beula-Jean Shattuck opposed and Steve Gendreau abstained.
Gendreau said he wanted a town-wide vote. But when he presented that motion, it died without a second. He has said that he now opposes the vote. He said that the town should have had a vote at town meeting.
Saudek, in his first face-to-face meeting with the board, outlined strategy in open session before a TV camera crew from Quebec, reporters from both countries and an overflow international audience of more than 60 people.
He said he would explain to the PSB and to Chad Farrell of Encore Redevelopment what he had seen Monday evening – that the town is in an uproar and that the board is likely to vote to oppose it at some point.
He urged the board not to vote no right now, despite pressure to do so. The select board, he said, would give up leverage in negotiations over contracts and funding or in other ways.
“Let’s say we left the whole thing in limbo. I go to the developer and the PSB and I would say ‘this developer has really got this town going,'” he said.
“This project has not really been sold,” Saudek said.
He added he would say: “You don’t really want to know what this town has to say right now.”
Saudek also said that the evidence that could be gathered from the Sheffield project and how residents are reacting to it would be a good argument to bring to the PSB in hearings over noise impacts.
If he were advising the developers, he would tell them that they should have a pretty good reason for going ahead with this.
Farrell has said that they want to slow down the proceedings so people have more time. They failed to notify all abutting landowners, prompting the PSB hearing officer to throw out the hearing schedule. A new one has not been issued.
“Hearing you people, I can understand the guy is having second thoughts,” Saudek said.
He warned that the developer does not have to withdraw the project application just because a host town votes against it.
But all the projects approved by the PSB had host town support, he noted.
He also questioned whether the project would qualify for premium rates under the small-renewable program set up by the state.
There is “real instability” in the proceedings right now, he said.
“I’ve never seen any case like it,” he said, referring to the failure to notify abutters.
Saudek will alert the board if he needs a special meeting to report back on developments.