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Holland: Divided Select Board opposes wind turbine

HOLLAND – The divided Holland Select Board voted Tuesday evening to oppose a single industrial-sized wind turbine proposed for Dairy Air Farm.

The vote included support for the anti-wind turbine language in the regional plan for the Northeast Kingdom.

Selectmen Norm Fortin and Tim Sykes voted to oppose the wind turbine proposed by farmers Brian and Kim Champney.

Abstaining was board chairman Brett Farrow, who said he wanted to see the results of a planned non-binding referendum of town residents and property owners about the wind project.

Town Clerk Diane Judd said that she plans to organize the town-wide vote as soon as possible. It will take some time, because the intent is to poll both voters on the checklist and property owners and there has to be a way to avoid having people voting twice.

The Champneys want to erect one industrial-grade wind turbine less than 500 feet tall on their dairy farm on School Road, a mile from the town’s elementary school and the U.S.-Canadian border.

They have provided official notice to the town, neighbors and state officials that they will seek a certificate of public good for a meteorological “met” tower on the site to measure wind speeds.

The Champneys are supported by consultant Martha Staskus of Vermont Environmental Research Associates and others, who are in the midst of studies needed to apply to state utility regulators on the Vermont Public Service Board for a certificate of public good for the wind turbine.

They have said that they would likely apply for the turbine certificate while collecting more wind speed data from the new met tower.

The selectmen voted on the wind project Tuesday during a special meeting at the Holland school at the request of resident John Wagner. He asked the select board to take a stand to oppose the wind project, and to pass a resolution concurring with the wind ban in the regional plan.

He also asked the town’s planning commission to include the anti-wind turbine language from Northeastern Vermont Development Association in the town plan. The planning commission in Holland is reviewing the town’s energy policy and town land use language now.

Fortin and Sykes heard complaints from Brian Champney and some of his supporters who said they had been talking in the community about their opposition to the wind project. Some said they should have waited until the town votes on the wind project in a non-binding referendum.

But those who opposed the wind project applauded their decision.

Mark Whitworth of Newark, a member of the NVDA board, read the NVDA language in the regional plan. He recommended that the town of Holland include the language in their plan.

“NVDA will in all likelihood oppose this project,” Whitworth said, adding that he is only one member of the board and was speaking for himself.

The select board and about 45 people from the town and neighboring communities heard from Aaron Kisicki, an attorney with the Vermont Public Service Department, which acts as an advocate for electric consumers.

He explained the process under which both the met tower and the wind turbine will be considered before the Public Service Board.

Selectmen asked questions about what their role can be in the process. Kisicki also heard complaints that the process of approving wind and other energy projects is geared toward the developers, not designed for public participation.

He encouraged the town to contact the department with questions.