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Brighton adopts new town plan calling for wind moratorium

A public hearing on a new town plan was held Monday night and the town’s select board, which met immediately after, unanimously voted in a new town plan that calls for a moratorium on industrial wind.

Joel Cope, administrative assistant for the town of Brighton, said that, other than the members of the town’s select board, planning commission and one member of the public, the hearing was quiet and the plan was adopted without controversy. He said the moratorium was put into the plan after two-thirds of the respondents in a town-wide survey held last fall said they would want the town to enact a moratorium on industrial wind.

Brighton is the second town in recent months to oppose industrial wind, following in the steps of Newark, which last fall adopted an amended town plan that banned industrial wind.

Both towns were selected a little more than a year ago by a team of out-of-state developers, Eolian Renewable Energy of Portsmouth, N.H., and Chicago-based turbine manufacturer Nordex, USA, to be considered for a wind project envisioned across the ridgelines.

The co-developers, who are in the early stages of seeking state approval to test wind conditions, have not yet revealed their final proposal but now appear focused on Ferdinand.

Of Brighton’s newly-adopted town plan, Cope said, “It was due to expire in 2013, so it was time to renew it, and they did.”

The planning commission re-wrote the town plan after the survey results, and held its own public hearing on the new town plan earlier. Monday night’s hearing was the select board’s airing of the plan.

“The main reason is that the select board did a survey and their intent in doing the survey was to ask people if they were in favor, not in favor or undecided,” on the question of industrial wind, explained Cope. The survey asked residents and property owners in Brighton if they would want the town to “to call for a moratorium and to point out the area’s tourist-based economy and reliance on natural tourism and natural beauty,” he explained.

Cope said the moratorium is on industrial-scale wind only. “The town totally supports renewables, but this is the wrong way to go for us…Nobody has said, ‘I don’t believe in this global climate change stuff, or global warming,’ nobody is saying that. It’s just that this particular form of renewable [industrial wind] is not appropriate, and merits more study.”

The town plan is now in effect with the vote of the select board, said Cope, “It’s all done.”

The energy section of the new town plan was several pages long, and included a passage that read, “Members of the Planning Commission and Selectboard have spoken with many members of the public, and the Selectboard conducted a thorough survey of voters and taxpayers. The survey showed that a majority of those voting were opposed to industrial wind turbines on the ridgelines of Brighton, by a vote of 544-320. The planning commission is in agreement with this vote. Brighton’s economy is basically a tourism-based economy that is dependent on its reputation as unspoiled mountainous and forested landscape, and we can say without ambiguity that large-scale development that is not in harmony and in character with the scenic and environmental quality of the area is a serious risk to that economy.”

It goes on, stating, “We therefore support the resolution of the Northeastern Vermont Development Association (NVDA) and the NEK Regional Planning Commission, to call for a three-year suspension on further development or construction of industrial wind projects, while objective studies are carried out to determine their impacts and real value. The NVDA Energy Committee, appointed to update the NVDA Regional Plan, has determined that there is more than enough power already being produced in the region, and more electricity would not reduce fossil fuel use for heating our homes and fueling our cars,” the plan states.