The town of Irasburg is slowly but steadily gaining support from other towns where elected officials would like to see the state grant greater weight to the opinions of the citizenry in decision making, especially in regard to large energy projects.
A letter from Westmore “got the ball rolling,” said Selectman Brian Fecher Monday evening. Since then, Fairfield and Newark have sent letters of support, while Glover has indicated that it will.
At the behest of the select board, Town Clerk and Treasurer Danielle Ingalls sent out a letter to a list serve for municipal clerks and treasurers Nov. 10.
In his explanation to newly appointed Selectman David Warner, Fecher said Montpelier does not listen to the voices of small towns in its decisions and posited that it would be nice if each town could have one vote on the Public Service Board for decisions related to large-scale energy projects proposed within its limits.
Developer David Blittersdorf wants to build an industrial wind project on Kidder Hill in Irasburg, which the people of town opposed in a vote of 274 to 9 in early October.
Blittersdorf has not yet filed an application with the Public Service Board (PSB) but the town wasted no time in taking action, with a group of townspeople forming an opposition group called Irasburg Ridgeline Alliance, getting petitions signed, and holding the October vote.
“The select board is reaching out to other towns seeking support in their fight to give towns a voice,” Ingalls wrote. “In the past towns have not had much of a voice in the decision making process. The select board is trying to change this for other towns in the future that may face the same situation.
“They would appreciate any support they can get to show the Public Service Board and the legislators that towns want a voice in the decision making process,” Ingalls concluded.
Fairfield Town Clerk and Treasurer Amanda Forbes wrote, “Fairfield is in the same position and would like to have more say in these decisions.”
Newark Selectmen John Lewandowski, Cynthia Barber and Mark Ellingwood sent a letter to Irasburg as well, supporting Irasburg in the fight against big wind and commending the Irasburg board for its resolution.
“Like you, we feel strongly that a town’s considered vote should not be ignored by the Public Service Board. There is strength in numbers, and we are pleased that several surrounding towns want to join forces to counteract the fast pace at which the state is enabling developers to raid and destroy our ridgelines,” the board wrote.
Newark, Brighton and Ferdinand were “similarly attacked in 2012,” the board wrote.
“Each entity voted overwhelmingly against the project, and our voices were given only lip service in Montpelier,” the Newark board wrote.
Despite opposition, the developers built a meteorological evaluation tower. They continued ahead with their plans, only pulling the plug when it became apparent that costs to connect to the grid would be exorbitant, the board wrote.
“Fighting the wind industry and the state government is a tough uphill battle,” the board wrote.
Three people attended Monday night’s meeting to ask the Irasburg board what steps were being taken to fight Blittersdorf’s two-turbine project.
Cathy and Gary Bennett and Darrell Martin, a Coventry resident, asked questions that largely went unanswered as Dr. Ron Holland, the town’s representative to the Public Service Board, had to work and could not attend the meeting as planned.
Martin said he has a vested interest in the issue, since his property is just lots away from Blittersdorf’s and is located at the same elevation.
“We could also put wind towers on our property. Not that it will happen in my lifetime,” Martin said.
Asking about the town’s progress, Martin said, “I’m feeling a little bit like the horse is already out of the barn.”
Selectman Brian Sanville said the board is working on stopping the project.
Fecher said it is not even a town issue at this point, but rather a state issue, which doesn’t bode well for the town since Governor Peter Shumlin favors wind developments.