WINDHAM – The Windham Select Board voted 2-1 this week to reject a request from wind developer Iberdrola Renewables to start negotiations about its 28-turbine project in the towns of Windham and Grafton.
Board Chairman Frank Seawright said Wednesday the board decided to reject the suggestion from Iberdrola, and the town instead asked Iberdrola to drop its plans and leave town.
“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,” two of the three Windham Select Board members wrote, along with the chairman of the Windham Planning Commission.
Seawright said that the town plan “expressly” outlaws wind development in the town, and he said it was the second such town plan to take a strong stand against wind.
The letter cites several environmental and human health issues, ranging from flooding and erosion worries to the effects on residents from long-term exposure to turbine noise, vibration, infrasound and shadow flicker from the turbines.
Twenty of the 28 turbines would be located in Windham, and Seawright said his home bordered the proposed wind facility.
Seawright said that while Iberdrola had made a financial offer of $715,000 annually that would essentially wipe out the town portion of Windham’s property tax, it wouldn’t affect the larger statewide school tax.
“But it’s never been based on the money. If we take the money, we won’t have a town,” he said.
Instead, Seawright said, the town will propose to the private landowner who is working with Iberdrola, Meadownsend Timberlands Ltd., “that they engage the town in discussion that could lead to the town’s acquisition of the property, so that it might be preserved for the good of us all.”
Iberdrola’s manager of renewables development, Jenny Briot, had written to the Windham Select Board last week, asking that the town appoint “an independent and balanced committee to discuss the form and terms of Iberdrola’s potential agreement.”
Briot also sent a similar letter to Grafton.
But one select board member voted against the strongly-worded letter to Iberdrola.
In a statement he released to the press, Selectman Kord Scott said that he refused to sign the letter, saying negotiations were “not an unusual business practice.”
“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.”
And Scott said if the town did agree to Iberdrola’s suggestion, “negotiating is in no way indicative of a tacit acceptance of a project – the voters ultimately decide.”
Scott also said he did not sign the letter because a group of Windham residents had submitted a letter to the Select Board in April, signed by 60 residents, that asked the Select Board to form just such a “bipartisan committee” to do what Iberdrola was asking.
Art Sasse, a spokesman for Iberdrola, did not return a call asking for comment.
Iberdrola said it would follow the wishes of a townwide vote, currently slated for November.
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