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Newark: NVDA approves amended town plan

The amended Newark Town Plan has been unanimously approved by the Northeastern Vermont Development Association’s board of directors.

The Newark Town Plan was amended by the town’s planning commission, and voted in by residents last month, as well as the Newark select board. The changes include language stating the community does not want to host an industrial wind development. Residents in a special town meeting voted by a nearly 3 to 1 margin in support of making those changes.
NVDA Executive Director Steve Patterson addressed the board about the changes at its Oct. 25 meeting at the Hilltopper Restaurant in St. Johnsbury.

Patterson told the NVDA board that the plan had been reviewed and that it is in compliance with the regional planning agency’s Regional Plan. Sen. Bobby Starr made the motion to approve the Newark Town Plan, the motion was seconded by William Davies, and the motion carried unanimously, the minutes show.

A week earlier, NVDA’s Town Plan Review Committee held a public hearing in Newark, where committee members met with the town’s select board and planning commission as well as a handful of interested Newark residents on the town plan. After a review of the amended Newark Town Plan by NVDA staff, it was found that “the new Town Plan contains all 11 of the elements,” required by state statute and addresses all goals set forth by statute, as well.

The town is one of three for which an application for a Certificate of Public Good (CPG) is now before the Vermont Public Service Board by a would-be wind project proposed by Seneca Mountain Wind, LLC, a partnership of Eolian Renewable Energy, LLC, of Portsmouth, N.H., and Chicago-based turbine manufacturer Nordex USA, Inc. The developers seek a CPG to install four meteorological towers in Brighton, Ferdinand and Newark to test conditions for a hoped-for wind development that could site up to 35 industrial-sized turbines on the ridgelines across the three communities.

The developer is challenging the applicability of the amended Newark Town Plan as the PSB reviews the MET tower application for the one station planned for Newark. An attorney for the Vermont Department of Public Service has told the PSB that the amended Newark Town Plan should be relied on in the decision, since the developer had not properly notified all abutters and there was a stay on the CPG application and process during which time the town succeeded in amending its town plan to bar wind projects. The developer’s attorney, meantime, argues that their application came in when the original town plan was in place, and should be considered under the former town plan.

In an e-mail to NVDA regarding the lead up to Newark’s town plan vote, Planning Commission Chairman Kim Fried stated, “During this process we have kept NVDA informed of what was going on and appreciate the support and comments we have received.”

Brent Beck, a member of the NVDA Review Committee, asked at the hearing, “about the possibility of a ‘silent majority’ of people supporting wind in the community who may not have come out for the vote on the plan’s amended language,” the minutes reflect. To that, Fried responded “that those opposed to the amended language (wind proponents) were well-organized and had contacted people to turn out for the vote, just as the wind opponents had.”

There was no one at the hearing to speak against the amended town plan, the minutes note.

NVDA has called for a three-year moratorium on wind projects in the Northeast Kingdom this year while impacts of the developments already in place are studied in the region.