DERBY – Dairy farmer Bryan Davis and Chad Farrell of Encore Redevelopment have no intention of withdrawing their plans for two industrial-grade wind turbines on two Derby farms.
Both Davis and Farrell said Tuesday that the project called Derby Line Wind is still going ahead, even though there have been significant changes in the schedule and pace of the project.
“We’re going full-steam ahead,” Davis said.
“Yes we are continuing to go forward with the project,” Farrell said.
He still wants to receive a certificate of public good for the turbines this year to raise them next year.
Last week’s select board meeting, when the board considered but did not officially vote to oppose the wind project, has left both Davis and Farrell uncertain about what exactly the board members have decided.
On a motion to support the project, Selectman Laura Dolgin voted in favor, Beula-Jean Shattuck and Karen Jenne voted against it and Steve Gendreau abstained. The motion did not receive enough votes to show a majority action by the board.
Gendreau said he wanted a town-wide vote, but received no support for that idea, given the time it would take to set up a referendum by Australian ballot. Dolgin said she did not support a vote because it would not include residents in Stanstead, Quebec, who are near the wind project.
The board asked its attorney Richard Saudek to find out what Encore Redevelopment intends to do given the shifting opinions in Derby, with the board going from a majority clearly in favor to divided.
Saudek said that the project has been hindered by failures to notify all abutters on schedule and other issues. He speculated that the developer might be preparing to pull the plug on the project or delay the proceedings until next year.
Farrell said he has no intention of doing that.
The proposed schedule offered by Farrell, which puts hearings in mid-summer, is still on the table before the state regulators on the Vermont Public Service Board, he said. The hearing officer for the board has yet to rule on that proposed schedule.
Farrell said the divided vote by the board did not seem like a mandate to oppose the project.
The rumors are flying and many people don’t have their facts, Farrell said.
Davis said he has support in the community. After Monday’s meeting, he said he received many calls from area residents, including people he doesn’t know.
“My phone keeps ringing,” Davis said. “There’s a tremendous lot of support in the community.”
Davis said the same group of opponents is driving the opposition at meetings but the supporters do not attend the meetings.
Davis would like for the select board to call a special vote on the project to see just how many people support it. “I am very, very confident it would go in my favor,” Davis said.
Davis attended the Monday meeting but didn’t speak out. Derby Line resident Chris Blais asked during the meeting if Davis had been approached by other developers.
Davis said that he spoke with three different developers who contacted him over the years because his property is a farm field on a ridgeline where there is a good wind resource.
He has also talked with farmers who live near a large wind project in upstate New York. He said they have few complaints and their cows graze beneath the turbines without problems.
Farrell did not attend Monday’s meeting after consulting with Davis during the day. Davis said that Farrell’s presence would prompt more complaints.
Saudek said this project is different from others that have been approved by the Public Service Board in that there are only two turbines which would provide a much smaller taxable income for the host town compared to the Sheffield and Lowell projects.
“This is a pretty unusual case,” he told the board Monday.
“As wind developments go, it’s very small,” he said. “On the other hand, the towers are just as large.”
The wind turbines would generate power at a premium rate because it is a small project under the state’s sustainable renewable energy program, Saudek said.
Saudek warned the select board that almost all wind projects have been approved. “The PSB has been extremely receptive to wind power,” he said.
The problem that the developer faces in Derby is that there is little incentive for the town to support the project because there is no big tax bonanza like the $500,000 payments in Lowell and Sheffield, he said.
Another difference here is that Derby did not put the question on the town meeting ballot to get voter response, unlike in Lowell and Sheffield. Selectmen on Monday lamented that.
Saudek indicated that it might be too late in the process, if the proceedings go forward this summer, for a vote.
But he said it is clear that more and more people are opposing industrial wind projects in general.
“Sentiment has turned against these machines much more than it used to be. What’s going on in Lowell … influences the way people view these things.”
The PSB seldom opposes the wind projects, he said. But on the other hand, the PSB seldom approves a project that is opposed by the host community, he said.