A wind project planned for northwest Vermont faces a test at the polls Tuesday. Voters in Swanton will cast ballots on a proposed renewable energy project that could bring as many as seven wind turbines to a ridgeline in town.
The Swanton Wind project has been a topic of discussion at every select board meeting since July, after the developers held a meeting with project neighbors. The developer, Travis Belise, first notified the town of his plans in March.
Selectboard chair Dan Billado says while the Public Service Board has the final say on whether the project is approved, he thinks local residents need an opportunity to make their views known as well.
“The result is information for the PSB, the PSD [Public Service Department] and the government and the developers and this is how the community feels. I don’t know if it will give any weight to their decisions or not,” he said.
The project developers say the ballot question is phrased in a biased way and the selectboard has been spreading misinformation about the project.
“When you really look at how the town has put this question together and how hastily the ballot question came together considering the fact that we haven’t even put in an application, a complete application for the certificate of public good, it really doesn’t create much hope that we’ll get a fair result, especially in an environment that’s been pretty clouded by the spread of fear and misinformation and the lack of calm dialog,” said Anthony Iarrapino, a member of the Swanton Wind project team.
Iarrapino says the ballot asks voters whether they oppose the project, meaning supporters will have to mark their ballot no. And he says it doesn’t mention the potential benefits to the town and state, instead it focuses on the number of turbines and height, which are not yet finalized.
Billado says the selectboard doesn’t support the project, utility companies have said they don’t want the power, and the vote is not hasty.
“We’ve had a lot of meetings, we’ve had a lot of people opposed to it. How can you consider it hasty? They tell us they don’t have a project, but they’re already telling us they’re going to give us $150,000 per year in lieu of taxes? How can you not have a project plan if you’re already telling us what you’re going to give us?” he said.
Swanton Wind notified the town more than 45 days ago that it planned to file for a certificate of public good from the Public Service Board, but they have not yet done so. Iarrapino says studies are still underway. “We’re making sure that a project like this is done right because it’s going to be in the backyard of the developers and they care about the local community and the environment there,” he said.
Iarrapino says there is support in the community for the project, and no matter the outcome of the vote, the Belisles plan to move forward to the Public Service Board.
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