CASTLETON – The developers of the proposed wind project in Rutland County told Castleton officials and residents on Monday approximately three to five turbines could be constructed on a portion of the ridgeline in the town.
Steve Eisenberg, managing director of Reunion Power, said a concrete number of turbines in the town has not been determined because they are still developing the site plan.
“The project layout is under way. There is civil engineering that needs to happen that is absolutely necessary,” he said, adding they hope to have it soon. “Initial studies show that we can avoid most sensitive areas (on the ridgeline).”
Eisenberg spoke to a packed auditorium at the Jeffords Center at Castleton State College in what was the second of four informational meetings with town officials in the project’s host communities. He presented information about the Manchester-based company’s proposed (up to) 50-megawatt generating facility on the Grandpa’s Knob ridgeline before opening it up to questions.
The project is expected to cost upwards of $100 million. Approximately $1 million annually, assuming 50 megawatts of power production, will be distributed among the four towns. Of the $1 million, payments to the state Education Fund of approximately $420,000 will be made each year for the life of the project, and the remainder will be in the form of tax payments and host town agreement payments, according to Eisenberg.
He said the expected net capacity generation is about 32 percent of the 50 megawatts per year.
“Sometimes less, sometimes more, sometimes none,” Eisenberg said. “That number is in the ball park, if not conservative. That is very efficient for wind power generation.”
Residents raised questions about taxes and property value, asking if they would agree to a property guarantee with the towns. Eisenberg said he understands the concerns but can only go by the studies that are out there, adding they are not practical and does not know “how it can be enforced.”
Residents spoke out against the project, including Frank Giannini, who said the majority of the people are against the project.
“I ask the Select Board vote ‘no’ on this project,” he said.
Dan Tucker, who started to really investigate the project within the last week, said, “I overlook the ridgeline, it’s a beautiful ridgeline. I ask the Select Board, if you say ‘no,’ will Steve go?”
Tucker said after the meeting that Vermont is unique as it prides itself in having a high environmental record and now someone is trying to destroy a large environmental area.
“I am trying to learn so much as quickly as possible,” he said. “I only find all the negatives and not the positives.”
A resident also questioned Eisenberg about a 2009 subpoena by the Attorney General in New York, which she said “is all over the news.” The subpoena in questions alleges misconduct by several companies that allegedly received land-use agreements using cash bribes and other illegal gifts. Eisenberg said the company was completely exonerated by the state of New York.
Following the meeting, town planning commissioner John Hale, said he is 95 percent sure it will not be good for the community.
“(We should consider) adding an amendment to the town plan to include a clear and specific determination of what this town wants the ridgeline to be,” he said.
Select Board Chairman Thomas Ettori said more information needs to come out on the project.
“At this point in time the board has not made any decision whatsoever, whether against or in favor of it,” he said.
Ettori said no board members had received any gifts or bribes from the developers and called it “ridiculous,” referring the 2009 subpoena.
Reunion Power will also speak before the Pittsford Select Board at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Lothrop School Gymnasium and at the Hubbardton Select Board’s meeting at 6:30 p.m. on May 30 at the town’s firehouse.