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Complaints, high winds impact Dairy Air site visit

HOLLAND – Protests erupted before the wind turbine site visit on Dairy Air Farm even began Monday afternoon when the developer’s attorney tried to stop people from taking photographs or recordings on the farmer’s private property.

In the end, after demands that the site visit be canceled if people couldn’t record what they were seeing and hearing, attorney Leslie Cadwell relented.

Thomas Knauer, hearing officer for the Vermont Public Service Board, welcomed the 30 or so people who parked on hot dusty School Road to see where a 499-foot-tall turbine is proposed by developer David Blittersdorf.

Also attending were representatives with state agencies, the community group Citizens for Responsible Energy in Holland (CREH), individual neighbors who are intervenors in the project and other interested residents from Holland and neighboring communities.

Knauer noted that the site visit is not a formal hearing but that he wanted all those who already have party status to be within earshot when he or anyone else asked questions.

Cadwell announced that everyone who wanted to walk up the small hill where the wind turbine would be located had to sign in. And then she said that only those who had permission from the property owners would be allowed to take photographs or any recordings while on the Champney family’s private property.

No one was present from the family to give permission.

People complained immediately to Cadwell and to Knauer, pointing out that they thought this was a public site visit and that gave them the right to take photographs or recordings. Public Service Department attorney Jeanne Elias pointed out that developer David Blittersdorf had tried to limit photographs and recordings during another site visit.

It was during the site visit at a solar project planned in Morgan, when both this reporter and an attorney for the town protested the restrictions. In the end the press was allowed to take photographs during that site visit.

While Elias and Cadwell argued, members of the audience, including intervenors, protested.

Knauer stepped away down the dirt road with two officials working for the Public Service Board to talk about the situation.

He returned to question the restriction.

“I’m not sure it makes sense to restrict video and recordings,” he said.

But he said the site visit would go forward, saying he had traveled a long way to see the location.

Cadwell relented in part, saying that photos and recordings would be allowed but signers had to promise not to use them in the review process.

Vicky Farrand-Lewi of CREH demanded that the site visit be canceled. She said that there was no warning that there would be restrictions and she pointed out that with no member of the family present, no one had the chance to secure permission anyway.

Knauer said the parties can file a complaint afterward, and can ask for another site visit if they want.

It wasn’t the only problem during the site visit.

A team hired by the developer worked hard to launch a white weather balloon, requested by the hearing officer to give a general indication of where the turbine would be as viewed from different vantage points. The first blew up.

The second made it aloft but – driven by stiff southeasterly winds – bobbed along the tree line and added nothing to the site visit but some laughter.