GRAFTON – The Grafton Select Board is putting Iberdrola Renewables on notice that the town may not be ready to vote on its Stiles Brook wind turbine project by the November elections.
Grafton Select Board Chairman Ron Pilette said Wednesday it was still possible there would be a townwide vote at the presidential elections, but it was doubtful.
“We may not be ready,” he said.
The Grafton Planning Commission has not completed work on the new town plan, in particular the chapter dealing with energy projects, Pilette said.
While there is nothing that forces the town to vote on the Iberdrola project in November, Pilette said he would prefer the town plan – in particular the energy chapter – be completed before the town vote. The town plan would give the town leverage, he said, in any review by the Public Service Board on the wind project.
Pilette said the Select Board was expecting the draft of the new town plan at its meeting Tuesday, but received a letter from Planning Board Chairman Eric Stevens saying the document wasn’t completed.
“Obviously, they’re divided on what it should say,” Pilette said.
“It’s the only hook we have with the PSB,” he said, noting that this summer’s legal changes now gave town plans “deference” in the state review process when it comes to siting an energy facility.
“There’s no necessary link between the town plan and the vote,” said Pilette. “But given the legislation and the PSB mandate, I think it’s appropriate.”
Pilette said he was speaking for himself, not the board, but believed the majority of the board agreed with him.
The Grafton Select Board met Tuesday night and discussed several issues about the Iberdrola project, which if built on a ridgeline and plateau between Grafton and Windham would be the biggest wind project in the state, with 28 turbines producing 96 megawatts of electricity.
Windham has already set its townwide vote for the November elections.
He said the board voted 3-1 to send a letter to Iberdrola alerting the developer a November vote wasn’t likely, but that a townwide vote might be held in late 2016 or early 2017.
Iberdrola has said it will respect the wishes of voters in the two towns, but it has gone on record against the actions by both towns to poll its nonregistered voters, who own property in their towns but are not legal voters.
Windham is asking its nonresident property owners whether they support or oppose the Iberdrola project, while Grafton will be sending out a poll later this month to all taxpayers in town – residents and nonresidents alike. Both towns said they will tally the poll or mail-in ballot as if it were an absentee ballot, but it would be kept separate from any formal vote.
The board agreed to ask the planning commission to complete its work on the town plan – everything but the energy chapter – by Sept. 19, and to have the energy chapter completed by Oct. 3.
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