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Wind developer Blittersdorf sues project neighbors

MILTON, VT – On Friday, Georgia Mountain Community Wind LLC (GMCW), a company whose majority owner is David Blittersdorf, filed a series of legal actions against project neighbors. The company requested from the Vermont Superior Court and received a temporary restraining order against neighbors. The Court granted the order without holding a hearing. In a second action, Blittersdorf’s attorneys filed a lawsuit alleging that the neighbors’ presence on portions of their own property that are within the project’s claimed 1,000 foot blast safety zone are a nuisance and interfere with the project’s existing contracts. Construction on the four-turbine project began in May.

“We are blown away. How can someone remove us from our own property, without even a hearing? It isn’t our fault they don’t have enough space to blast into the mountain for this supposed green energy project. So much for the ‘community’ in Georgia Mountain Community Wind,” said Heidi FitzGerald, daughter of adjoining landowner Jane FitzGerald, one of the parties sued by GMCW.

In June 2010, the Public Service Board (PSB) issued a Certificate of Public Good for the 10MW wind project. Later in hearings on appropriate project setbacks, the Board approved 155 foot setbacks from neighboring property lines. This decision came against the recommendation of the Department of Public Service (DPS) and other parties in the case. During the hearings DPS recommended using a standard of at least 1.1 times turbine height, which would have been a minimum of 440 feet in this case. The Blittersdorf project plans to use Chinese-made Goldwind turbines that are over 400 feet tall.

The restraining order prevents neighbors from using the parts of their property near the project for agricultural, recreational, or any other purpose. Residents have been riding horses, walking, training dogs, and grazing cattle in the area around the project site for years.

“At no time has anyone from GMCW or David Blittersdorf himself come to us and said they wanted to work with us on these issues. Instead they have resorted to using their expensive lawyers to take our land completely without compensation. There is a process for this at the PSB, but Blittersdorf has chosen to be a bully rather doing the right thing. Perhaps it is because the PSB process requires appropriate compensation to neighbors? Who knows, but this happened in Lowell, and now here. Why are we letting these developers use land that isn’t theirs, sue their neighbors, and run off with massive profits from subsidies provided by tax payers?” said Jane FitzGerald, one of the landowners named in Blittersdorf’s suit.

The neighbors have indicated that they did not have the resources to mount a legal battle to reclaim use of their land.

FitzGerald continued, “We are regular Vermonters, we don’t have the money to fight this and compete with someone as rich as David Blittersdorf. I don’t think we can get a fair shake in this and it has left me feeling ill. I am sick over the fact that someone is stealing everything we have worked for.”

GMCW’s legal action comes as neighbors have grown increasingly frustrated by the PSB’s failure to address their numerous concerns. In an urgent letter sent to the PSB on July 3rd, neighbors outlined how excessive blasts have shaken their homes and discharges of flyrock large enough to kill have landed on their property. The PSB failed to respond to their letter for over a month.

The neighbors’ concerns go beyond blasting as well – border trees have been cut, at least one sediment basin to control runoff has been constructed on neighboring property, and early morning construction has occurred before permitted work hours.

“Apparently this is the new rule of law in Vermont. As long as you say you are building a renewable energy project you are allowed to do whatever you want. Why aren’t we requiring developers to have enough land to build these projects so they do not trespass on neighboring properties? Who is looking out for the neighbors? It is obvious that the PSB’s and the Shumlin Administration’s support for large wind projects gives developers a sense of entitlement that leads to abusive actions,” said Energize Vermont Executive Director Lukas Snelling.

Snelling continued, “If this doesn’t illustrate the need for true community owned and scaled energy projects I don’t know what does. Renewable energy is part of our future and response to climate change, but it doesn’t mean we need to abandon both Vermont-style decency and common-sense property rights in one fell swoop.”

Energize Vermont was created to educate and advocate for establishing renewable energy solutions that are in harmony with the irreplaceable character of Vermont, and that contribute to the well-being of all her people. This mission is achieved by researching, collecting, and analyzing information from all sources; and disseminating it to the public, community leaders, legislators, media, and regulators for the purpose of ensuring informed decisions for long term stewardship of our communities.

Materials from the lawsuit are available at: http://energizevermont.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/BlittsSuitAgainstNeighbors.zip