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Developer granted permit for wind tower in Alexandria

ALEXANDRIA – After hearing an hour-long, spirited debate among about 60 residents at their meeting Tuesday night, the selectmen voted to grant a Portuguese wind-power developer a permit to build an 80-meter meteorological tower in town.

The selectmen, who had signed the permit for EDP Renewables conditionally more than a year ago, had held the permit up because two of the three selectmen —Donald Sharp and Michael Broome – refused to second a motion by Selectman George Tuthill to grant the permit.

But they sided with many in the audience who said the cost of a legal battle with the developer would be too high for the town, and doubt was expressed by many, including the town’s attorney, that the town would lose a court case.

In addition, the selectmen seemed impressed with advice from Michelle Sanborn, a resident and member of the Citizens of Alexandria Rights Effort, a group that wrote and helped pass the town’s new Rights-Based Ordinance, which was approved by voters in March as a way of keeping local control over large projects.

Sanborn also said she and other suspect EDP’s lawyers would use a loss in court over the matter as legal precedent to defeat the town’s ordinances and other RBOs recently enacted in area towns as a hedge against large energy projects. The group admits they aren’t sure if the RBOs will win in court, as they have not yet been challenged in New Hampshire.

“I’m the last person that wants this to go through, but if we lose, EDP may see this as an early opportunity to get a (negative) ruling on the RBOs in the area,” Sanborn said.

At the end of the discussion, Tuthill again asked his fellow board members if they would give a second to vote on a final approval on the permit for EDP, and this time, Broome said, “I second it.”

The vote was taken, and Tuthill and Broome voted for the permit, while Sharp declined it again.

“The people know where I stand on this,” Sharp said.

EDP has proposed a $140 million, 15- to 25-turbine Spruce Ridge wind-power project in Alexandria, Groton and Hebron, but has said the tower is just a testing system for that project to see if it should be pursued.