MONTPELIER – The cutoff for comment on Seneca Mountain Wind’s application for a Certificate of Public Good before the Vermont Public Service board for its plans to install four temporary meteorological towers in Brighton, Ferdinand and Newark ended May 18; the developer asked to respond by June 4 and did so.
Then comments came in through this week to the PSB’s office in Montpelier, responding to the Seneca Mountain Wind response, from a handful more residents and town officials.
Seneca Mountain Wind’s 15-page response to the public comments related to the CPG application before the Public Service Board were hand delivered to the board’s offices on June 4 and came from their attorney, Burlington-based Andrew N. Raubvogel of Dunkiel Saunders Elliott Raubvogel & Hand PLLC.
“…SMW respectfully maintains that the public comments do not raise any significant issue with respect to any section 248 criteria, and therefore neither a site visit nor evidentiary hearing is necessary or required,” the first page of the SMW response states. “The application meets all of the section 248 criteria and should be approved as expeditiously as possible, in order for SMW to be able to install the MET towers during the summer construction season.”
The response breaks down the public comments along the criterion for which the CPG will be evaluated by the PSB, starting with the Orderly Development of the Region.
“Some commenters assert that the prominence and visibility of the MET towers will have a negative effect on both property values and the local economy, which is fueled by tourism,” summarizes the response introduction for that criterion.
The response states, “The comments are purely speculative and general in nature and thus fail to establish the existence of a significant issue under section 248 (b) (1).”
“The claim, even if considered, is also without merit. Studies have shown that there are no consistent, widespread impacts on property values from the installation of commercial wind projects (and thus by extension certainly not from temporary MET towers).” It refers to a study in Lempster, N.H. saying it is a similar, rural, mountainous setting. The company says the claim that “MET towers will create such impacts is unfounded.”
Of “some commenters” including the two boards in Newark, saying the project is inconsistent with the Newark Town Plan and its vision statement, including the protection of two deer wintering areas, and the visibility of a MET tower on Hawk Rock from Center Pond, the attorney for SMW states, “First, there are no specific land conservation measures contained in the Town Plan that relate to the site parcel that would be violated; second, no deer wintering areas are directly or indirectly affected by the MET sites, as determined,” by field work conducted for the plans. “Third, the Hawk Rock MET site would not be visible from most if not all of the western shore of Center Pond.”
“Fourth, as summarized in SMW’s original application, the Newark Town Plan references a number of different broad goals, including the development of renewable energy,” the developers’ attorney stresses. “As discussed in the original application…the Plan contains no specific prohibitions on this type of development,” suggesting the MET tower would, in fact, be consistent in several ways with the Town Plan, which touches on the need for local renewable energy generation on page 21 of the plan, the developer’s attorney notes.
Noted attorney Raubvogel, “…the MET tower would not cause undue impacts to recreational, environmental, or scenic resources, and thereby does not violate those general goals of the Town Plan.”
“SMW recognizes that Hawk Rock is an important area locally,” the attorney noted. “There will be no restriction of the public’s use of conserved lands in Newark…Once the MET tower is removed, there will be no permanent impacts to the landscape.”
Regarding the Agency of Natural Resources’s statement about impacts to black bear and Peregrine falcon habitats and the need to stay out of areas during seasonal restrictions, the developer’s response states that they would agree to restrictions as part of the CPG because of the wildlife habitat needs.
The SWM response also addresses an allegation that it had begun road work in Newark related to the project. “SMW did not begin to have any contact with Newark landowners regarding a potential wind farm, or a MET tower for that matter, until late December 2011. At no time has SMW authorized any road building, quarrying, or other construction work on any of the sites,” noted the attorney.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding