NEWARK – About 60 town residents – and one of the three principal developers of a wind farm with sights on the ridgelines of Newark, Brighton and Ferdinand – turned out on Thursday night for a public hearing on amendments to the Newark Town Plan, which was adopted in December 2011.
Changes are proposed, said planning commission member Luke O’Brien, to make sure the town plan is clear that Newark as a community does not welcome industrial-sized wind.
O’Brien said the developers of the potential wind farm, Eolian Renewable Energy, of Portsmouth, N.H., misinterpreted the Newark Town Plan in comments to the Vermont Public Service Board, and inaccurately portrayed the community’s vision. In response to a request from Newark Neighbors United to revise the plan, and other community members, the plan was revisited due to the looming project.
Now, the project is in its infancy: Eolian is awaiting a decision from the Public Service Board in its application for a Certificate of Public Good to be able to erect four meteorological towers, a precursor to a possible wind farm that would install 35 turbines, potentially 10 of them in Newark, across the three communities. Travis Bullard, one of the three partners in Eolian, was in attendance at the hearing, and sat at the back of the Newark Street School multi-purpose room, but did not speak.
Several times, he was referred to by name by angry residents who do not want the development. Once, he was sworn at, by resident Alfred Cross Jr., who broke down in tears during his testimony. He said he suffers from multiple sclerosis, cannot work and worries about the effects on his health and others in the town should the wind farm ultimately be permitted close to his home. He later apologized for swearing at Bullard directly.
One passage of the amended language states, “Newark residents have expressed concern over the impact of industrial development, fearing that it could destroy the character of the town. Therefore, industrial-scale power generation and transmission facilities are inappropriate in the town.”
The amendments proposed, which reiterate several times the position O’Brien stated, are consistent, he noted, with the recent vote by the Northeastern Vermont Development Association calling for a moratorium on wind projects here, passed in a 39 to 3 vote, O’Brien stated, and proposing that industrial development be left to three industrial areas NVDA oversees.
A height restriction is one of the amendments proposed for the Newark Town Plan, proposing that commercial and industrial development at elevations above 1,700 should not happen in Newark, nor structures higher than 125 feet.
It took just shy of 20 minutes for O’Brien and the commission to explain the changes and lay out the amendments, page by page, for those in attendance.
For another hour, residents got to ask questions and make comments, and the majority were in support of the amendments.
One resident – local attorney Jill Mathers – was skeptical about the town plan being amended so soon after its adoption, and pressed the planners for what a definition of large-scale meant in the language being proposed. She asked if the new wording could potentially restrict businesses in town, or limit people from getting wind turbines taller than 125 feet for home or farm use. She was told the changes were aimed at restrictions on commercial and industrial proposed development, not home-based businesses or residential or farming. She also expressed concern over the height restriction potentially impacting communications towers in the future.
Mathers asked what other towns had amended their plans in just eight months after being adopted, and Planning Commission Chairman Kim Fried said he could not offer an example.
Resident Sue Keefe said she had property in New Hampshire, near where the Seabrook Nuclear plant went and said the planners there were not as “advanced thinking as Newark’s town plan is.” She said she ended up living in an evacuation route. “Everybody moved out of town …Thanks to everybody who is putting time and energy into this,” she said.
Select Board Chairman Michael Channon said a warned special town meeting will be called for citizens to advise the select board of the townspeoples’ wishes. “I realize this is a hot button issue and everybody deserves an opportunity to be heard. I honestly want something to hang my hat on,” he said. “I think everybody deserves a vote whether they are the majority or not, and this is the best way I can see to do it,” he said, noting the select board represents everyone in the community.
Resident Noreen Hession said while some people are critical over changes being proposed to so newly adopted a town plan, that “because Seneca Mountain Wind and because Travis (Bullard, the Eolian partner at the meeting) and other people came to Newark five months ago and wanted to industrialize our town, we needed to make it clearer to people that we do not want to live in an industrial zone.”
Resident John Lewandowski said he moved to Newark 14 years ago and the town “fits everything that I was looking for, everything that my wife was looking for. We came out of New York where every time you turned around there was another shopping center going in and you had no say…People didn’t care as much there. They care here…Newark is a great town and it needs to stay that way; I think you guys are doing great,” he told the commission.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding