WINDHAM >> The Windham Select Board voted 2 to 1 on Monday to send a letter asking wind developer Iberdrola to suspend its 20-turbine project.
“Given the marked unsuitability of the Stiles Brook Forest for an industrial wind installation, we ask that you suspend your involvement with this project immediately,” states a letter from the Select Board that is addressed to Jenny Briot, manager of Renewables Development of New England and New York.
The letter further states that the Windham Town Plan prohibits industrial wind and is “based on years of study.” The letter went on to list several reasons as to why the Select Board disproves of such a project, including concerns around topography, flooding and erosion, wildlife, water quality and the human population. This current design of the Stiles Brook Wind Project involves a 28-turbine, 96.6 megawatt facility that would be Vermont’s largest and most powerful wind energy site. Iberdrola Renewables has proposed the development in the 5,000-acre Stiles Brook Forest, owned by New Hampshire-based Meadowsend Timberlands Ltd.
Proponents say it will bring a source of green power and revenue for both towns of Windham and Grafton. Briot said Iberdrola would pay about $1 million in property taxes to the two Windham County towns if the company moves ahead with the project. However, opponents have noted their concerns about possible negative impacts to property values, the environment and health.
“We are unwilling to subject any of our town’s property owners to the unknown short- and long-term effects of exposure to turbine noise, vibration, infrasound, and shadow flicker,” states the letter in regards to the 200-plus Windham homes that lie within 1.5 miles of at least one turbine.
“In addition, we find your repeated dismissal of the question of proximity troubling, as is your lack of truthfulness about the problems your company has experienced with turbine neighbors who have been sickened, annoyed, and deprived of quiet use of their property by your activities,” the letter further stated. “In particular, we are following closely the suit brought by neighbors of Iberdrola’s Hardscrabble project in New York.”
All three members of the Select Board and about 14 members of the public were present at Monday night’s discussion, according to Nancy Tip, resident of Windham and a member of Friends of Windham, “a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering rational discussion of renewable energy.”
The letter further notes that southern Vermont towns are susceptible to flooding, reminding Briot of Tropical Storm Irene.
“Windham will not support a project that places our downstream neighbors at increased risk for flooding. We take an ethical and moral stance in relation to our neighbors in Grafton, Saxtons River, and Cambridgeport, and we abide by the dictum proposed by Wendell Berry: ‘Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you,'” the letter states.
Only two of the three board members signed the letter to Iberdrola – Chairman Frank Seawright and Maureen S. Bell. Select Board Vice Chairman Kord Scott did not sign the letter.
“I refused to sign the letter because having a developer, in this case Iberdrola, asking a community to discuss, or negotiate the issues surrounding a complicated project such as this is not an unusual business practice,” Kord told the Reformer Tuesday afternoon. “Iberdrola has said they will abide by a vote of the registered voters about a negotiated project and not proceed to the Section 248 process if the vote is negative.”
Scott added that another reason he chose not to sign the letter was because a group of residents submitted a letter to the Select Board in April, which was signed by over 60 residents. According to Scott, that letter asked the board to form a bipartisan committee to “do exactly what the developer is asking for.” Scott noted that ultimately the voters decide whether to accept the project.
According to Tip, at Monday’s meeting, a member of Friends of Windham asked, “How is it sound practice to knock on the town of Windham’s door and say ‘We demand to buy your house, which isn’t on the market, and we insist that you negotiate a sale price? The proper answer is ‘Go away!'”
In a letter addressed to the Select Board from Briot that was dated June 13, Briot says Iberdrola will not move forward with the project if there is not community support as indicated by a majority of votes from registered voters. A vote is scheduled to take place on November 8, 2016
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