Meadowsend Timberlands has purchased 600 acres of land adjacent to the southern portion of its Stiles Brook Tract, straddling Grafton and Townsend, Jeremy Turner, managing forester for the company, confirmed on Tuesday.
He added that a quarter of the tract is in Grafton, with the remaining acreage in Townshend. MTL, based in New London, N.H., is a 23-year-old family-owned company that manages 30,000 acres of forests in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, including the Stiles Brook property.
For the past four years, Iberdrola Renewables (aka Avangrid) had worked toward building the state’s largest wind farm – in the end, 24 turbines – on the Stiles Brook Tract, with the majority of the 500-foot-high turbines in Windham and the remainder in Grafton. Iberdrola had said that if the voters decided that they did not want the project, the company would pull out. Its role in the project ended last Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, when voters in both towns soundly defeated the project at the polls. Grafton defeated the proposal 235 to 158 and Windham turned away the project 180 to 101.
And although Iberdrola ended its pursuit of the project, MTL had never made such a promise.
On Tuesday, Turner said that the new property, bought from Raymond O. Tarbell, extends MTL forestlands. He added that the lease with Iberdrola/Avangrid has been terminated. However, he added, that while there is “no other energy company on the horizon” MTL would “still like to pursue something.”
“We now have 9 square miles of mountaintop. It’s the best-sited in the state of Vermont for wind … it’s wind friendly,” Turner said. He added that the company can wait for “the state to become wind-friendly again.” He was referring to the new administration of Gov. Phil Scott, who in December called for a moratorium on wind development. Scott, according to the Burlington Free Press, has also suggested that communities needed to have a bigger voice in determining project location, which they now will have before the Public Service Board if they properly craft the energy section of their Town Plans.
Turner indicated that MTL can be patient. “We’ve been around for many many generations. … There will be a time when we’ll be able to make a difference for everyone in a good way. We’re there for the long term.”
As for speculation that Iberdrola/Avangrid is involved, spokesman Paul Copleman said on Tuesday after checking with the company’s development team, “We have no leases and we are not developing in Windham County.”
The project had been opposed by two groups – the Grafton Woodlands Group and the Friends of Windham.
Nancy Tips, of the Friends of Windham said she personally isn’t concerned that the purchase would mean the project was coming back on line. “The town made it clear – in a vote that was almost 2 to 1 – that wind was not appropriate in Windham.” She added that Iberdrola “genuinely thought” that it could convince voters to back the plan “especially after” it offered residents of both towns yearly stipends, which she and others have called “bribes.”
Liisa Kissel of the Grafton Woodlands Group called the sale “common knowledge” and said that GWG will “keep an eye on things. We’ll have to learn more.”
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