(Host) Voters in Ira are expected to weigh in tomorrow night on a controversial wind farm that’s being proposed in their town.
As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, the nonbinding question is expected to generate a lot of debate.
(Keck) Last spring, Vermont Community Wind Farm announced plans to build a large scale commercial wind farm along three ridgelines in six towns.
But environmental obstacles and battles with local landowners caused the company to rule out many potential sites.
Vermont Community Wind Farm’s Jeff Wennberg says they now hope to build wind towers in two towns, Ira and Poultney.
(Wennberg) "And at this point there are still 34 potential sites but again, that number like all the previous ones, is subject to change as we finalize plans and continue our investigations."
(Keck) Barbara Cosgrove is a member of Ira’s Planning Commission. She says for 20 years the town has made preserving its ridgelines a priority, and she says erecting 450-foot wind turbines and connecting roadways along the mountain tops goes against that.
(Cosgrove) "I think there are a lot of issues that people right now aren’t realizing. And God forbid if we lose the fight and they start blasting our mountain tops. I think people will say, ‘Oh my God. What were we thinking?’"
(Keck) A mailing that Cosgrove says she received last month from Vermont Community Wind Farm mentioned that during town meeting, Ira residents would be asked to vote on the following renewable energy question.
(Cosgrove) "It says, ‘Do the voters of Ira support the opportunity to develop local renewable energy including wind in order to create jobs, increase tax revenue and provide clean energy.’ Now who in the world would honestly say, ‘Not me?’ I mean it’s just such a benign statement. But obviously this whole thing has been strategically put together for a reason."
(Keck) But Ira resident Ted Sheloski says there’s nothing sinister about it. He says he went out, got the required number of signatures and asked town officials to put the question before voters. He says considering the recent no confidence vote for Vermont Yankee, the issue is even more timely.
(Sheloski) "We have to start looking for alternative power and what better alternative power is there than wind? I think it’s a good project. It’s good for the environment, it’s good for the economy it’s just a good project all the way around and I firmly believe in it."
(Keck) Jeff Wennberg of Vermont Community Wind Farm says a yes vote would not be binding, but it would help indicate to local officials and the company that there’s a willingness to negotiate and explore a host community agreement. He says a strong no vote will be disappointing – but he says it won’t necessarily derail the project either.
For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck.