HOLLAND – About 60 people, at a meeting Monday about a large wind turbine planned for Dairy Air Farm, expressed bitterness that no one representing the project bothered to attend.
The sentiment grew more intense later in the long meeting in the Holland school when those gathered learned that Dairy Air Farm owners Kim and Brian Champney did attend a Holland planning commission meeting being held at the same time at the town clerk’s office.
The lack of information from developer David Blittersdorf, consultants or the farmers left residents, Holland property owners and wind opponents from neighboring towns including Albany, Craftsbury, Lowell and Newark to seek answers from each other and anti-wind experts.
And it clearly led to a nearly unanimous straw vote by a show of hands in opposition to the project.
“It’s a shame they didn’t come,” said Sen. John Rodgers, D-Essex-Orleans, who has sought a ban on industrial wind turbines in Vermont.
He speculated that the developer knows exactly what kind of turbine he wants for this location.
Neighbors revealed that the Champneys have said they would receive $10,000 a year in lease payments for hosting one industrial-grade wind turbine possibly 450 to 490 feet tall on their School Road farm.
Residents suggested that the lease payment to the farmer is not worth the controversy that’s pitting neighbor against neighbor and the potential impact on property values, health and welfare of residents and their cows.
One person suggested that the town pay the farmers that amount to get them to reject the wind project. Others then said that everyone would want that deal.
The town could receive $20,000 annually in a municipal tax deal for the single wind turbine plus state school taxes, which town clerk Diane Judd said could cut taxes of the average homeowner by $40.
The selectmen, who called the meeting and invited the wind developers, said they are frustrated that they are not receiving information either. They promised to share anything they receive with residents.
Selectmen liked the idea of a referendum but said they didn’t know how to proceed.
Several urged the select board to contact Brighton about its survey of both taxpayers and property owners about the now-defunct Seneca Wind project.
The selectmen said they would respond to a July 18 letter from a new anti-wind group called Citizens for Responsible Energy in Holland.
The group asked the select board to oppose the Dairy Air Wind turbine, saying that the noise will affect people’s health, property values would be affected and taxpayers have to pay to support wind energy.
The board could debate the letter at Monday’s meeting at 6:30 p.m.
There was some new information shared at the meeting, some from people who have spoken to the Champneys, some by Annette Smith of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, who has become an expert on wind project issues, and some from Blittersdorf himself, although second hand, because he was overheard speaking about the Holland wind project at a recent renewable energy meeting.
Smith said the wind turbine site would be locked in because of the state program under which it is proposed.
Neighbors said the site would be as close as 50 feet from School Road and within a mile from the elementary school.
Members of the planning commission said that the Champneys want to put up what’s called a meteorological (MET) tower to test wind speeds first.
Smith said the need for a certificate of public good for the test tower would delay the project, giving the town more time to plan its opposition.
In the meantime, she urged the selectmen to work with the developer and the consultants to get the best studies possible rather than be forced to pay hundreds of thousands for independent studies.
She also urged the planning commission to develop a new town plan that would force the state utility regulators on the Public Service Board to give substantial deference to Holland’s wishes when it comes to siting wind turbines.
The planning commission is in the middle of rewriting the town plan and is working with a consultant.
Smith and others urged residents to vote for a governor candidate who would ban or fight to ban industrial wind projects. They are Republicans Bruce Lisman and Phil Scott and Democrat Peter Galbraith.
Residents said a 450-foot turbine would be visible nearly everywhere in Holland. They said property on Mt. John is for sale, saying one turbine will lead to five or six.
Judd said she is compiling a list of questions for the developer and consultants to answer. She showed a newsletter that she expects will be distributed in the community.
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