PITTSFORD – Residents in Pittsford urged the town and local leaders to use all the power they have to stop the proposed wind farm project from moving forward. They want the town to be proactive in getting their position heard through a townwide vote and a change in the language of the town plan to disallow wind turbines on the ridgeline.
For more than three hours, residents voiced their adamant opposition to the proposed Reunion Power wind project on Grandpa’s Knob at a public informational meeting with the developers and the Select Board on Thursday night. They raised concerns about the health and economic impacts of the project, pleading with town officials to listen to them.
“This is a nightmare. I can’t believe this is happening in Vermont,’ said Beverly Peterson. “I thought Vermont valued its landscapes. I can’t believe this is happening and we have to stop it.”
Pittsford Select Board Chairman Hank Pelkey said the board is gathering as much information, from both sides of the project, so they can make the best informed decision.
“Remember after this we will stay neighbors and hopefully still friends,” he said as he opened the meeting.
When asked about the possibility of having the town vote, Pelkey said, according to a legal opinion, a vote’s outcome would be meaningless.
“The Public Service Board has the final approval, not the town,” Pelkey said. “The authority (on this project) doesn’t reside on the Select Board.”
Steve Eisenberg, the company’s managing director, and Rob Howland, a consultant for the project, spoke to a packed gymnasium Thursday. They presented information on the company’s proposed 50 megawatt, 20-turbine wind farm project on the Grandpa’s Knob ridgeline in Pittsford, Castleton, Hubbardton and West Rutland.
The estimated cost of the project is in excess of $100 million, with up to $1 million annually to be paid to the towns assuming 50 megawatts generation. Of the $1 million, payments of approximately $420,000 will be made to the state Education Fund, while the remainder, in the form of tax payments and host town agreements, will be shared by the four towns.
Eisenberg said they are working on completing a facilities study so they can complete the project’s site plan they hope to present to the towns soon.
“You don’t do something this lightly or on a whim,” he said. “We don’t take this lightly. You take your time and do it right.”
During his presentation, Eisenberg said they are expecting to have anywhere between nine to 11 turbines in the town of Pittsford – the most of any of the other towns. The turbines could potentially be up to 490 feet tall – including the blades – depending on the type of turbine selected.
“Turbines have gotten bigger and they have gotten more efficient,” he said, addressing a comment that these turbines are the highest proposed in the state.
Steve Rademacher said the state banned billboards because they are disruptive to the landscape and the wind towers are the same.
“(Grandpa’s Knob) is a view and experience that we will never soon forget,” he said. “The decision to be a host town is huge.”
The opposition on display at in Pittsford on Thursday is nothing new. The developers have been faced with protestors since they began meeting with town officials earlier this month. At the time, Eisenberg said he respects people’s different views and their ability to express themselves, and that continues to be the case.
“We have been trying to listen all the way,” he said recently. “It requires listening. That is what we are trying to do.”
In terms of the public meetings, with the fourth coming up next week, Eisenberg said Friday, the fundamentals of their presentation are the same. They continue to take into considerations people’s comments and concerns for future meetings. When asked if they have discussed if they would ever walk away from the project, he said no.
Reunion Power will meet with Hubbardton town officials at 6:30 p.m. May 30 at the town’s fire house.
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