ANTRIM – With a 390 to 278 vote, Antrim residents turned down the proposed zoning amendment to allow for the construction of commercial wind farms. On Tuesday, residents holding Amendment 5 signs lined Main Street, going past the Town Hall; the signs alternated almost equally between Yes and No.
“I’m really grateful to the town, to come through and protect the town’s interest,” Sarah Gorman of Antrim said in an interview Wednesday. “I’m not gloating, I’m optimistic. The intent of the zoning is saved.”
Although there are no wind projects currently on file in Antrim, Gorman said, “I don’t think these guys are going to quit,” referring to the writers of the ordinance, Antrim Wind Energy of the Eolian Renewable Energy company. Antrim Wind had previously proposed a project for a 30 megawatt, 10-turbine wind farm to be built on Tuttle Hill and Willard Mountain. The project was denied by the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee, citing visual impact.
If the ordinance passed, a potential wind farm could have been built in the rural conservation district in town. “This is rural conserved area for a reason. We have historical sites up there. We have nesting eagles,” Gorman said.
An ongoing topic at the polls Tuesday was the issue of non-residents holding signs in favor of the ordinance. Gorman has lived in Antrim for over 30 years and said she only recognized two of the people outside of Town Hall campaigning for the petition. Gorman said she went over to a woman who was holding a pro-wind sign and asked her where she was from. Gorman said the woman told her she was from Hillsborough and she was paid by Antrim Wind to hold up the sign.
Project Manager for Antrim Wind Energy John Soininen did not return phone calls seeking comment by press time..
John Szehi, an Antrim resident since 1996, said Wednesday that he went up to people that he didn’t recognize and also asked them where they were from. Szehi said the responses included Hillsborough and Concord.
“My feelings are not against wind, earth or solar, my feelings are against Eolian and how they conducted business,” Szehi said. “This is not something that happened over night, they have been very persistent with getting their way. It’s a profit-making company, they have got quite a niche here and I don’t think they’re going to give it up.”
If a wind ordinance were to pass in Antrim, Szehi said the town would need to “deal with an honest company.”
Those in favor of the ordinance felt that renewable energy is an important goal and could prosper in town.
“I’m obviously disappointed that it didn’t pass, what do you do?” Anne Enman of Antrim said Wednesday. “Everybody should try and conserve, but we need to find something else besides coal and nuclear.”
Enman said the wind debate came down to a “not in my backyard” mindset among residents. “I don’t know what the solution is if we’re not willing to put a wind farm in our town. I think we need to do wind and solar, and everyone needs to do it, not someone, somewhere else,” she said.
“Obviously I’m disappointed, I thought it would pass even though I thought it would be close,” resident Tim Perry said in an interview Wednesday.
Perry said he felt protected by the ordinance. “I thought it covered all the bases that needed to be covered. The process doesn’t begin and end with an ordinance. A number of other processes need to happen.”
He agrees that this is not the end of the wind discussion. “I don’t think it’s going to be the end. I think Antrim Wind Energy will take a step back and look at what to do.” His concern with the denied zoning amendment is that by 2025 New Hampshire state law says that the state needs to have 25 percent of its electricity come from renewable energy. “If we’re going to achieve that, it’s going to have to be wind.”
In other voting results, incumbent John Robertson was re-elected to the Select Board. Robertson won with 261 votes, but Robert Holmes was close behind with 227 votes; and Jeanne Plourde Cahoon received 107 votes.
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