Grafton Grapples With Wind Development

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Grafton has been considering whether an industrial wind project should be built in town.

A proposal at town meeting to help determine where the town stands didn’t clear up the confusion.

The possibility of an industrial wind development in town has caused a stir in town. Recently, the Spanish energy company Iberdrola won state permits to erect wind test towers on a 5,000-acre parcel in Grafton and Windham.

Windham’s town plan bans commercial wind. So officials there were quick to oppose any wind project.

The debate hasn’t been so simple in Grafton. The select board chose at first to wait and see if the wind tests showed that a project is feasible. But with an anti-wind movement gathering steam, the board decided to take the town’s pulse at town meeting.

Voters were asked whether the select board should continue gathering information on the issue.

Al Sands is the Grafton select board chair.

"We’ve been repeatedly told that we should be fighting this rather than discussing it," Sands told the crowd. "If that’s what most voters feel, then we don’t need to talk to them. And we switch gears and we start to fight it. "

Several voters at the meeting worried what their vote would mean. Would a "yes" vote be interpreted as a tacit approval of a possible wind project?

Liisa Kissel, an ardent wind opponent, urged a "no" vote. She said the proposal would give the select board too much control over information from the would-be developer.

"This article is frivolous," Kissel asserted. "The select board does not need the approval of the voters to carry on conversation. That is what they do and that is what they are supposed to do. But more importantly, this article is potentially dangerous because it limits the right of the people to informed decision making."

Kissel and her group, Friends of Grafton Heritage, wanted town meeting voters to ban industrial wind in Grafton. The select board rejected their petition as illegal. They said the state, and not the town, has jurisdiction over such decisions.

That’s a point of contention in Grafton. Many speakers at town meeting lamented that towns have little input into Public Service Board decisions on new energy projects. 

Keith Hermes said he wanted more information before making up his mind whether to support the project. But he said the town meeting proposal was too confusing.

"In listening to the discussion this morning it’s pretty clear there’s no common understanding of the question," Hermes said. "I do want further conversations," he continued. "But I’m worried about voting yes and have that interpreted as an approval and I don’t want to vote no because I also don’t’ want to dismiss the opportunity to get more information."

In the end, voters agreed to table the question indefinitely.

They unanimously approved another article calling for a town wide vote if and when a proposal is on the table.

Follow VPR’s coverage of Town Meeting Day 2013




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