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Windham Foundation comes out in opposition to Stiles Brook Wind Project

GRAFTON >> In advance of two meetings to discuss a redesign of the Stiles Brook Wind Project, the Windham Foundation issued a letter expressing its opposition to the project

The first meeting will be held Tuesday night at the Windham School from 6 to 8 p.m. and the second will be held at Grafton Elementary School on Wednesday night, also from 6 to 8 p.m.

“During the meeting, Iberdrola Renewables representatives will have numerous informational stations set up to give residents the opportunity to ask questions about recent changes to the project footprint, community benefits package and the development of the Stiles Brook Wind Project,” states a postcard sent to residents in Windham and Grafton.

The letter from the Windham Foundation, signed by Edward Zuccaro, chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Elizabeth Bankowski, president and CEO, stated the board has been paying close attention to the project, which was first proposed in 2013.

“Upon careful consideration of the environmental, economic and aesthetic impacts of the project, we have concluded it is not in Grafton’s best interest and we do not believe it should be built,” the pair wrote.

The Windham Foundation was established in 1963, with a mission to preserve and promote the vitality of Grafton and Vermont’s rural communities. The foundation operates the Grafton Inn and the world-famous Grafton Village Cheese Company.

“The exquisite harmony of the natural and built landscapes of Grafton is a precious asset, with considerable social and economic value,” wrote Zuccaro and Bankowski. “With regard to the environment, it does not appear that this project will be necessary to meet Vermont’s ambitious renewable energy goal of 90 percent renewable power by 2050.”

According to the state, Vermont is exceeding its goals and will achieve 55 percent or more renewable energy by the end of 2017, accomplished through a combination of solar, hydro and existing wind, they note.

“If the wind project is built and the impact of construction and operation is adverse to the beauty and experience of Grafton as we know it, there will be no way to turn back,” they wrote. “In our judgment, the risk to Grafton and all we seek to preserve is too great. Altering the delicate balance inherent in the rural character of this area is a risk that should not be taken unless we are certain that the benefits outweigh any negative consequences.”

Zuccaro and Bankowski wrote that they considered how the project might lower taxes for some residents, and that factor figured into the board’s discussion.

“As the town’s largest taxpayer, the foundation itself would be a major beneficiary. … However, due to the way the state property tax relief program works, those who might benefit from a reduction in the municipal portion of their real estate taxes could find those savings offset by a loss in the property tax adjustment that is based on income, if they are eligible for that program. The result could be little or no net gain.”

While the board respects everyone’s opinion in this matter, they wrote, the Windham Foundation concluded the project would be in opposition to its core mission.