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Northeast Kingdom wind project seeks backing

MONTPELIER – Property owners in a scarcely populated section of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom are going to be asked if they would support a proposal to build up to 20 wind turbines on a mountain in the town of Ferdinand.

The developer of the Seneca Mountain Wind project says it won’t move forward with its proposal without approval from the more than 450 property owners of the area just east of the village of Island Pond.

Last week, Eolian Renewable Energy, of Portsmouth, N.H., submitted a formal proposal for the project to the Unified Towns and Gores Board of Governors, which agreed to send ballots to the property owners in the six communities it represents.

The communities of Averill, Avery’s Gore, Ferdinand, Lewis, Warner’s Grant and Warren’s Gore have a combined population of 51 and have 39 registered voters, but there are more than 450 property owners, including timber companies and people who own seasonal properties often used for hunting.

“Everyone who gets a tax bill is going to get a vote. That’s the only fair and logical way to solicit input,” said John Soininen, the project manager who has owned property in the region since 1991.

But not everyone agreed.

“I’ve never heard of anything voted on in this state before where we let out-of-state landowners vote on town issues,” said state Sen. John Rodgers, D-Essex-Orleans, who describes himself as an opponent of industrial scale ridgeline wind projects and who attended a Monday meeting on the issue.

The details of how the vote will work and the timetable for distributing and counting the ballots will be decided at a Thursday meeting of the board, said board of governors Supervisor Gina Vigneault.

“It’s mostly all just camp owners, but they should have a right, if they own property,” said Vigneault. “They should have the right to vote because they will have to look at these things.”

The board of governors acts as the municipality for the communities that are laid out on maps, but have no municipal governments of their own.

Since 2011 two industrial scale wind projects in Vermont have gone online, both located in the Northeast Kingdom to the west of Seneca Mountain project. Both faced years of public and legal opposition before and, in some cases, during construction.