Grafton Officials Take “Wait And See” Approach On Wind Projects

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The town of Windham has been in the news recently for its efforts to defend a provision in its town plan banning commercial wind projects.

Despite those efforts, a major energy company recently won permission to build wind test towers in Windham and neighboring Grafton.

Officials in Grafton have been silent on the issue, but that may be changing. 

Grafton select board chairman Alan Sands says he’s been asked why Grafton didn’t join Windham in its fight to keep wind test towers off a ridge spanning both towns.

Both boards were approached in June by the Spanish energy company Iberdrola and the land owner, Meadowsend Timberlands.

Sands learned that wind test towers are almost never denied, and that the tests could take three years. So he says Grafton chose to wait and see.

 Sands says it seemed as if the town had some time and that it was premature for the board to take a stance.

"They could collect wind data and they say we don’t have a project," Sands says, "and this would go away on its own. Or they could say, ‘Well we have enough to work with. Let’s proceed."

A newly formed wind opposition group in town disputed that strategy.  Liisa Kissell is an organizer of the anti-wind group, Friends of Grafton Heritage.

"In my view," she says, "It would have been timely to start paying attention to this right away."

Kessels’ group sponsored a meeting last fall, featuring a panel of wind opponents.  Sands, the selectboard chairman, says the meeting presented only one side.

 "That to me changed the timeline," he says. "You need to listen to the whole thing before you make up your mind."

The town has scheduled two meetings. The first, on Saturday February 2, gives the developer and landowner a chance to explain what they have in mind and allow townspeople to ask questions.

The second, two weeks later, will be a panel representing a mix of viewpoints.

Sands says he’d like to know what a wind project might mean financially to the town.

Despite its reputation as a well-heeled tourist mecca, Grafton has lost jobs and revenues. Sands says many young families are struggling.

 "If they’re lucky they grew up on a piece of land that’s been in the family," he says. "And they get a piece of that land, and then struggle to live and pay taxes here. So when people say, I don’t want it here, it’s like, think about every body in town."

To Kissell, the cost-benefit ratio for ridgeline wind projects doesn’t make sense.

"It’s expensive," Kissell asserts. "It exists because of federal subsidies and state mandates. At the same time the cost is so high in terms of environmental destruction, what it does to the lives of people who live near such installations."

Kissell’s group is working on a petition to amend the Grafton town plan to exclude industrial wind projects.

An item on Grafton’s town meeting warning will ask voters if they want the select board and Iberdrola to keep talking. It promises another, nonbinding vote, if and when a proposal is on the table.

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