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Newark residents amend town plan to oppose wind

NEWARK – A large turnout of residents at a special town meeting Monday swiftly gave a message to the developers of a hoped-for wind project here: by a nearly 3-to-1 margin, the voters amended the town plan, stating the majority of residents do not want to play host to an industrial-scale wind turbine installation.

Immediately following the vote of 169 to 59 at the Newark Street School, the select board convened, and it unanimously adopted the town plan.

The planning commission acted on the requests of many town residents as well as the citizens’ group, Newark Neighbors United, who asked them to change the town plan not quite a year since it was adopted. Their concern was that the developers who want to site meteorological test towers here and in Brighton and Ferdinand had misinterpreted the previous town plan’s intent, said Planning Commission Chairman Kim Fried.

The amended Newark Town Plan 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.”

Fried said Seneca Mountain Wind, the name for the possible wind project, and its development partners, Eolian Renewable Energy of Portsmouth, N.H. and Nordex USA, a turbine manufacturer from Chicago, in applying for their Certificate of Public Good before the state’s Public Service Board, “quoted what they wanted to quote and there was not mention of our town vision, and many of our goals weren’t mentioned to the Public Service Board.”

“Seneca Mountain Wind dismissed many, many of your comments and questions and concerns including the Planning Commission’s, Newark Neighbors United, and the Select Board’s,” said Fried. “Our Town Plan is one of the only official documents that the state and the PSB will take into consideration for this type of industrial scale wind project…the town needs to use this – it is our right – and it’s our responsibility.”

Tuesday afternoon, the Town of Newark issued a statement. It notes, “The plan states that no commercial or industrial development should take place at elevations greater than 1,700 feet.”

Fried noted in the release, “Our old town plan took a pretty clear position against the industrialization of the town. Developers misrepresented the intent of the old town plan and claimed that it supported industrial wind turbines. The developers insisted that they understood the town plan better than we did and dismissed the objections of the Selectboard, the Planning Commission, and the citizens of Newark. We were left with no choice but to strengthen the Newark Town Plan so that it would be impossible to misconstrue it.”

Mike Channon, chairman of the select board, stated, “The industrial wind developers who have targeted our town claim that they ‘take pride in being good neighbors and active, responsible community members.’ We urge the developers to read our town plan and do the responsible thing: withdraw their application to construct a MET tower in Newark.”

Sent with the press release from the town was a letter sent Tuesday to the governor from Channon, informing him of the vote against industrial wind turbines.

“You stated that you would instruct the Commissioner of the Department of Public Service to inform the Public Service Board that your administration will not support construction of industrial wind turbines in towns that do not want them,” stated Channon. “Please inform the commissioner that Newark does not want wind turbines.”

Channon’s letter continues, stating, “We regard Newark as a target, not a potential host. Nonetheless, we have weighed the question of wind towers most carefully and we have decided that we do not wish to have them in our town. Accordingly, we have taken the only course of action that Vermont law provides us: we have adopted a town plan which clearly states our opposition.”