WINDHAM – More than 350 non-resident property owners in the town of Windham will cast mail-in ballots by next month on their feelings on the proposed Iberdrola wind turbine project in the towns of Windham and Grafton.
Friends of Windham have organized the non-binding ballot that will be mailed out to non-resident property owners in Windham next week, with the deadline of returning it by Oct. 7.
The ballots, which are to be mailed back to the Friends of Windham, will be locked in a safe and opened and tallied in public at a Windham Select Board meeting, said Nancy Tips, a spokeswoman for Friends of Windham.
The non-binding ballot by the non-resident property owners will come before a binding vote on Nov. 8 by the registered voters in Windham. That vote was set last month by the Windham Select Board.
Iberdrola, the Spanish-based energy conglomerate, wants to build the state’s largest wind turbine facility on a plateau and ridgeline in the Stiles Brook Forest that is owned by Meadowsend Timber, based in New London, New Hampshire. It has said it would abide by a townwide vote in either town, but has specified it must be from registered voters.
Iberdrola’s project would include 28, 500-foot-tall turbines; 20 of the turbines would be in Windham and eight in Grafton.
Tips said that Meadowsend, as a non-resident property owner, would also be sent a ballot. Tips said that there were a lot of corporations or trusts that own property in Andover.
Tips said that the non-resident property owners actually outnumbered the registered voters in town, which currently total about 300.
“The voter checklists are somewhat fluid,” she said.
The neighboring town of Grafton is also undertaking a poll to gauge the opinion of its second-home owners, but it is conducting what it is calling a poll, and plans on asking the non-residents whether they are against the project, for it or undecided. Grafton has not decided when and if to hold a townwide vote on the project.
Opposition runs strong against the project in both towns, and both select boards have a majority of members who are against the project.
Windham residents won’t be given the undecided option, said Roy Giarrusso, a second-home owner in Windham, who said he even listed “no” as the first option for the ballot.
Giarrusso, a Boston environmental attorney who specializes in representing companies involved in Superfund cleanup cases, said wind was the wrong choice for Vermont and its signature ridgelines.
He called the proposed wind projects in Vermont “relatively small and puny” that would not add significantly to the push toward renewable energy.
“It would cause such devastating impacts to the view lines and vistas – the Vermont brand,” he said.
Giarrusso said his home on Abbott Road has a spectacular view of two ski areas – Stratton Mountain and Bromley Mountain. While those mountains have been logged to create ski trails, he said, “I don’t see blinking red lights and 500-foot towers.”
“I am so proud of my view,” said Giarrusso, who said he would be very upset if the ski areas added wind turbines. “It’s one of the top views of Windham,” he said.
Giarrusso said that his view wouldn’t be marred by the Iberdrola turbines, since his home is right next to the Meadowsend property.
“We are lucky,” he said.
Giarrusso said he had been working with Friends of Windham so that the non-residents, who pay close to 60 percent of all the property taxes in town, had a say on such a pivotal issue.
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