IRASBURG – Two dozen residents last week discussed a draft of the first-ever town plan in Irasburg – critical to the town’s ability to weigh in on the construction of two industrial wind turbines on Kidder Hill.
Selectmen Brian Sanville and David Warner and residents met with members of the town’s planning commission on Thursday evening at the town hall.
Judith Jackson, clerk of the planning commission, described the urgency to develop a town plan.
Irasburg is currently one of three towns in Vermont without one.
“Without an approved town plan,” Jackson said in a statement after the meeting. “Irasburg would be very vulnerable during any regulatory proceedings, including hearings before Vermont’s Public Service Board.
“We might be called upon at any time to defend our town and our community values from unwelcome exploitation. A town plan will be critical to help us do that successfully.”
During the summer of 2015, Irasburg citizens learned that developer David Blittersdorf wanted to erect two 500-foot wind turbines on his property on Kidder Hill in Irasburg.
Irasburg voters rejected the use of town ridgelines for development by industrial wind projects by a vote of 274 to 9 on Oct. 1, 2015. Voters also petitioned the select board to prohibit industrial wind projects on the town’s ridgelines and to develop a town plan that protects all of Irasburg’s ridgelines.
The regulators on the Public Service Board have indicated that they could be swayed by a town plan with “clear, written community standards” defining which areas of the town are suitable, and which are not, for various forms of energy development, Jackson noted.
Planning commission Chairman Michael Sanville encouraged those at the hearing to share their concerns and questions about the draft plan. “It’s your plan,” he said in a statement after the meeting, “not the planning commission’s or the select board’s. It is meant to express your views on our town’s future.”
David and Mary Lahar, who have a small-scale wind turbine at their home on Burton Hill, expressed concern that the plan might prohibit residential-scale energy installations like theirs.
Planning commission members agreed to amend the draft plan to allow for such installations and invited the Lahars to participate in drafting the plan’s chapter on energy, Jackson said.
Thursday’s hearing marks the halfway point in a 60-day process prescribed by Vermont statute for the adoption of a town plan.
A second hearing, this one held by the town’s select board, will take place at the end of May, Jackson said.
Blittersdorf is in the final process of reaching out to area towns about his Kidder Hill wind project before filing 45-day notice of his intent to apply for a certificate of public good with the Public Service Board.
Copies of the draft Irasburg town plan are available for review at the Irasburg town clerk’s office and at the Leach Public Library.
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