IRASBURG – The select board on Tuesday reviewed the final draft for an interim town plan that addresses siting of renewable energy projects – a plan that industrial wind opponents hope will prompt state utility regulators to say no to two large wind turbines on Kidder Hill.
The draft interim plan went before the select board at a hearing and now the select board has to decide whether to adopt the draft.
Adoption would put this first-ever Irasburg town plan of any kind into effect – and if done soon, it would be in place before a wind developer has time to begin the process of applying for a certificate of public good for two industrial wind turbines on Kidder Hill.
State utility regulators would have to consider Irasburg’s interim town plan when reviewing those wind turbines for approval.
The planning commission and select board pointed out to residents that having a town plan does not mean that the town will have zoning.
“It’s the first town plan Irasburg has ever had,” said Judith Jackson, clerk of the planning commission.
“It’s a new experience for people.”
“We heard from a few people with concerns that the town plan would restrict the uses they could make of their property, but we reminded them that state statutes, including Act 250, already highly regulate land use, regardless of towns’ decisions,” she said.
Also, the commission reminded residents having a town plan does not mean the town has zoning.
Irasburg has always been proud that it does not have zoning. But a large majority, based on a referendum, do not want to see two turbines on Kidder Hill, as proposed by developer David Blittersdorf for his own property.
Two-thirds of voters signed a petition of 420 names asking the select board to draft a town plan that protects the town’s ridgelines from industrial wind turbines.
The planning commission has been trying to balance those sentiments in town to achieve the interim town plan.
The planning commission will continue to work on the rest of the town which could be completed this fall. The planning commission has another meeting set for Thursday.
The select board and the planning commission also discussed how the new law S.260 sets new standards for town energy plans so that the state utility regulators on the Vermont Public Service Board will give significant deference to the town’s wishes in the plan, Jackson said.
The renewable energy siting bill was the focus of a one-day special legislative session last week, after the governor vetoed the original bill S.230. The final bill has similar language and contains $300,000 for regional planning commissions to help towns draft new town plan language like Irasburg to better site renewable energy projects.
The interim draft plan in Irasburg directs developers to put solar projects in gravel pits and other locations rather than having wind turbines on hill tops and ridgelines.
The select board is expected to consider the draft interim plan and vote on it at the next select board meeting, town clerk Danielle Ingalls said Wednesday.
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