IRASBURG – Talks have broken down in the investigation over whether developer David Blittersdorf violated state rules when he erected a wind test tower without state permission on his Kidder Hill property.
That’s where he wants to erect two industrial-sized wind turbines.
The Vermont Department of Public Safety, the state’s consumer advocates, the town of Irasburg and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources now want the state’s utility regulators on the Public Service Board to determine he violated rules in a summary judgment.
On Thursday, the PSB hearing officer handling the case, George E. Young, set a schedule for motions and comments about the situation, which could lead to a decision about the investigation and whether it goes forward by late summer or early fall.
The town of Irasburg accused Blittersdorf of not seeking a certificate of public good for the meteorological tower. At the time, he said he didn’t need a certificate because when he put up the tower he was only checking for wind speeds and data for a small wind mill on his property and that doesn’t require a permit.
But he changed his mind and announced that he was instead going to seek to erect two 500-foot turbines on his Kidder Hill property.
The town of Irasburg complained that the PSB should fine or otherwise penalize Blittersdorf for not providing what might be critical advanced warning about a pending large wind project.
The town would have known that Blittersdorf was interested in a wind project of some kind if he had sought a permit for his wind test tower. And that would have given the town lead time to develop a town plan which under new law would be give significant deference by the PSB in deciding whether to approve the two large wind turbines.
Blittersdorf is in the midst of talking with area select boards in advance of the formal 45-day notice of intent to file an application.
The process will likely push the investigation into the fall, based on proposed schedules from the parties involved.
That will more than give the town of Irasburg time to have its interim town plan in place, which encourages siting of renewable solar projects in gravel pits and other locations rather than renewable wind projects on ridgelines.
The Department of Public Service’s attorney Aaron Kisicki noted in a letter to the PSB last week that it’s not likely that the town and the state would come to any agreement with Blittersdorf on whether he had violated the rules and should be fined or otherwise penalized.
But Blittersdorf’s attorney said in a letter to the PSB hearing officer that the negotiations aren’t really over.
Blittersdorf made a settlement offer directly to the town of Irasburg select board, said attorney Leslie Cadwell.
David Warner, chairman of the Irasburg Select Board, said Friday the board received the offer and looked at it briefly before asking the board’s attorney to review it.
The board, now back up to three members, will review the settlement offer at a future meeting, Warner said.
Voters on Tuesday elected Peter Faust to join Warner and Brian Sanville on the select board.
Warner declined to discuss the nature of the offer, saying it was a legal matter.
Dr. Ron Holland, who has been representing the select board in negotiations, said he could not discuss the offer because it was made to the select board.
The Department of Public Service is expected to file a motion before the end of June to explain why the PSB should decide now whether Blittersdorf should be found in violation. Blittersdorf gets to respond and then other parties also react before the hearing officer makes his decision for the board.
Blittersdorf is involved in three different renewable energy projects in the Northeast Kingdom: the Kidder Hill project in Irasburg, a 500-kilowatt solar farm called Seymour Lake Solar in Morgan and a preliminary plan for one industrial-sized turbine on the Champney family’s Dairy Air Farm in Holland.
He is waiting for the PSB to rule on the Seymour Lake Solar project. He has yet to apply officially for anything on the other two projects.
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