ANTRIM – The town must decide whether or not to accept a 100-acre conservation easement offered by Antrim Wind Energy. The easement is among several efforts on the part of the company to mitigate view impacts of a proposed wind facility on Willard Mountain and Tuttle Hill.
After Antrim Wind Energy’s proposal for a 10-turbine wind facility was turned down by the state’s Site Evaluation Committee in January, with the negative impact on the viewshed listed as the primary reason for denial, the company has been working to mitigate those impacts. Antrim Wind has offered $40,000 each to the Harris Center for Conservation Education in Hancock and the town of Antrim, as compensation for the project’s impacts.
The company has also proposed to eliminate the wind tower closest to Willard Pond. Most recently, they reached a purchase agreement with the Bean family to conserve a 100-acre portion of the ridgeline where four towers are proposed to sit. That easement abuts other parcels of land for which Antrim Wind has already negotiated proposed easements.
All of the easements are contingent upon the SEC reversing its decision and approving the Antrim Wind project. Antrim would only hold easements for the proposed easement on Bean property. The other easements, encompassing five parcels about 808 acres in all, would be held by the Harris Center.
If either a 30- or 27-megawatt wind facility is approved, Antrim Wind plans to purchase the easement rights to the proposed Bean easement, and compensate Antrim for any cost associated with maintaining it. While the town would manage the easement, the land itself would still be owned by the Bean family.
At a public hearing Monday night to help decide whether the town will accept the Bean property easement , some residents expressed doubts that the town has the experience to steward a conservation easement, as it does not hold any and never has. According to the CEO of Eolian Wind (Antrim Wind’s parent company) Jack Kenworthy, the wind developer approached both the Harris Center and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests about the possibility of holding the easement, but neither was interested.
The Harris Center and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests did not return messages seeking comment by press time Wednesday.
At Monday’s meeting, Select Board Chair Gordon Webber noted that even though Antrim hasn’t taken on conservation easements in the past, it has the right to do so, and it is not unusual for towns to hold easements. Webber, on the recommendation of the Conservation Commission, said he has attended two seminars concerning easement stewardship. The town would likely approach a more experienced agency, such as the Harris Center, to assist in the stewardship of the land, especially as the property is bordered on two sides by other easements negotiated by Antrim Wind – which are to be held by the Harris Center – and the ridgeline connects the two.
Resident Shelley Nelkens expressed concerns about ice debris that could potentially be thrown from the four rotating turbines that would be located on the Bean easement property, which could prevent residents from enjoying use of the property.
Kenworthy said there would be signs warning of ice throw on the main access road at 750 feet from the turbines and on trails within 500 feet of turbines. He added that ice throw generally is not nearly that far, although small pieces have been known to go farther, and that it would only be a concern during winter icing conditions.
“I’m in favor of this,” said Webber. “These wind towers will be up for 45 years. Forty-five years, to me, is short term. After that, they come down, and nothing else goes up. The long-term benefits outweigh the short-term costs.”
Residents Peter Moore and Richard Block disagreed.
Moore called the agreement, “An excavation and fill site in conservation clothing.”
Block argued that the land would not immediately revert back to wilderness following deconstruction of the project.
The Select Board will hold a second public hearing on whether or not to accept the Bean conservation easement on June 24 in the upper level of the Town Hall at 7 p.m. Immediately following that, the board will hold a public hearing on the revised payment in lieu of taxes agreement between the town and Antrim Wind Energy.
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