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Sheffield couple’s property by wind project up for tax sale

SHEFFIELD – The family most impacted by the wind project in Sheffield now face a tax sale.

Luann and Steve Therrien, who own nearly 50 acres as well as a rustic home on the land abutting the wind project, moved about a year-and-a-half ago to a mobile home in Derby, with help from Vermonters for a Clean Environment Executive Director Annette Smith, who put up the funds for the trailer.

The couple once begged for help from local and state officials, saying the noise from the wind turbines – close to their home – was negatively impacting their health and that of their young children.

First Wind, owner of the wind project at the time the Therriens attempted to leave their property, offered the couple $50,000. The offer was rejected.

The couple is behind $3,918.98 on their taxes. The amount represents three years’ of arrears on their property on New Duck Pond Road, according to a notice printed last week by the Town of Sheffield’s tax collector.

They have owned the property since 2007.

Their property is among a handful of properties going to tax sale at the Sheffield Town Office on Aug. 10 at 3 p.m., according to the notice. The Therrien’s property is a camp which had been in Steve’s family for many years, and where the couple lived year-round while raising their children.

Efforts to obtain a comment from the new owner of the wind project, SunEdison, on Friday were not successful.

Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, thinks the town should abate the Therriens’ taxes. “Their situation meets all the criteria for tax abatement,” Smith said. “They already requested it and were denied. As I understand it, the Town has nearly $1 million from the wind project. It is beyond outrageous how this family has been treated by local, state and federal officials. The Town must take responsibility for the choices it made to support the wind project and accept money from the wind company. That money can and should be used to abate the Therriens’ taxes. The right thing to do morally, ethically, and legally is for the town to purchase the Therriens’ property with the wind money and create a town forest.”

The “primitive camp” described in the tax sale advertisement placed in the newspaper, offers the camp and 49 acres of land and improvements thereon in the auction.

The couple recently asked to have their property considered as a site for a solar project, and are hoping to interest a solar developer in their property; they sent a letter to the Sheffield Planning Commission recently, which was discussed during a recent meeting on updates to the town plan.

“Our property would present the perfect area to install an industrial solar project as there is already an industrial wind power plant located on the mountain top directly behind our property,” the couple stated in their letter to the Sheffield Planning Commission. “The high-tension power line already in place running the length of our property would allow for easy installation of an electrical substation.”

Luann Therrien said she found out about the sale from someone who read about it in the paper. She said she contacted the town clerk and he said they should have received a certified letter about their property being advertised due to back taxes.

“I’m not sure what we are going to do,” she said.