LOWELL – In their $1.2 million deal with Green Mountain Power in April, Lowell wind turbine neighbors Don and Shirley Nelson “relinquished their right” to make complaints about the wind project’s impacts on their health or welfare.
They also agreed to convey to GMP the strip of disputed ridgeline property that was the source of a lawsuit in exchange for $50,000 from GMP.
These are details emerging Monday out of the actual settlement under which GMP purchased the Nelson farm in Lowell for $1.25 million, ending the lawsuit by the Nelsons against GMP, wind project property owner Ben “Trip” Wileman and his company and a blasting company that worked on the wind project.
The Nelsons released the settlement stipulation Monday morning.
The out-of-court settlement was first announced in general terms in April, when the Nelsons alerted friends and the media that they were selling their farm within view of many of the 21 Lowell wind turbines to GMP and ending a long court battle.
The dispute began in 2011 when GMP’s contractors began blasting on land that the Nelsons said was theirs, despite assertions by GMP which has a lease from property owner Moose Mountain Forestry and owner Wileman.
GMP had offered to purchase the property several years ago for $1 million, but was rebuffed by the Nelsons.
Since then, Shirley Nelson has testified before the state utility regulators on the Public Service Board that her health has suffered due to the proximity of the turbines.
The stipulation, signed April 11 by the Nelsons, a GMP official and attorneys for both parties, allows the Nelsons to live on the farm until they find a new home, which they have said will be far away from the turbines.
GMP spokesman Dorothy Schnure issued a statement on behalf of GMP on Monday in reaction to the release by the Nelsons.
“As we said when this agreement was announced, we are pleased to have settled all pending claims with the Nelsons. This wind project enjoys wide support in the community and we are glad we and the Nelsons can now move forward,” Schnure stated.
The settlement stipulation put very specific restrictions on what the Nelsons can say about the wind project – with comment that the restrictions do not hinder any testimony they might give if required in a court or quasi-judicial setting.
“The Nelsons agree that they shall not raise any future objections, claims or complaints regarding GMP’s Kingdom Community Wind Farm (KCW) or GMP’s construction or operation of KCW that is based upon, arises from or is related to the Nelsons’ experience or perceptions associated with their ownership or occupancy of their Lowell Farm property or their Albany land, …” the stipulation states.
“The Nelsons are relinquishing their right to assert or comment on any adverse impact from the KCW or GMP’s construction or operation of it on their Lowell or Albany land or on themselves or their guests while occupying said land.
“The Nelsons are, however, permitted to continue to express their personal opposition to wind power developments on Vermont ridgelines or elsewhere.
“Nothing in this provision shall prevent the Nelsons from providing truthful testimony in response to a lawful subpoena issued from a court or government agency, board or entity of competent jurisdiction,” the stipulation states.
In a press statement Monday, the Nelsons left no doubt of their position.
“The Nelsons remain fierce opponents of the destruction of Vermont’s ridgelines for the construction of wind towers and turbines.
“They said they hope their litigation with GMP will, in some small way, serve as a deterrent and a discouragement to developers and utility companies who may be looking to buy up other Vermont ridgeline property for the purpose of blasting away the mountaintop in order to install wind turbines.”
“The Nelsons encourage any who are on the fence about whether destroying mountaintops in order to construct wind towers is a good idea to visit Lowell Mountain and to see first hand the effects of mountaintop development.”
As for the disputed property that was fought over in court, the stipulation says that the strip of land between the boundary relied upon by GMP and Wileman and the more recent boundary line that the Nelsons had drawn now belongs to GMP.
The Nelsons and GMP agreed that “it remains uncertain how the courts will resolve the dispute or where the courts will determine the boundary line is located,” according to the stipulation.
The quitclaim deed now states that the original surveyed line done by Blais-Horizon for Wileman is the actual boundary line.
“By entering into this settlement stipulation, neither party makes any admission concerning the strength or weakness of any of their claims.”
Other details include that GMP won’t oppose any request for post-conviction relief from the six original protesters, including Dr. Ron Holland of Irasburg, who were found guilty at trial of trespassing at the wind project. Their conviction was later upheld by the Vermont Supreme Court.
It didn’t make any mention of a second group of six protesters, who recently saw their charges dropped.
The stipulation allows the Nelsons to remove a hunting cabin on the property.
The Nelsons thanked their many friends, supporters and organizations who stood by them during the lawsuit. They noted that the Lowell mountain area served for generations as a wildlife area held in many private hands but open to the public for hunting, skiing, hiking and other sports and recreational pursuits.
They thanked the fellow landowners who kept that tradition alive while paying their taxes.
The Nelsons referred all questions, including why they released the settlement details Monday – two months after the deal was struck – to their attorney Scott McGee.
McGee was not in his office Monday and could not be reached for comment.
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