MONTPELIER — Nearly 400 people who own property in five Vermont unincorporated towns and gores are being asked to vote on whether an industrial wind project should be built on Seneca Mountain in the Northeast Kingdom town of Ferdinand.
Ballots were mailed to the property owners, including five in Canada, last week. They must be postmarked no later than Dec. 12, and they will be counted at the January meeting of the board of governors of the Unified Towns and Gores, the body that oversees the communities that have no separate municipal governments of their own.
UTG Supervisor Gina Vigneault said she had to go to Canada to buy return postage for the Canadian property owners eligible to cast ballots in what the board is calling a nonbinding “opinion survey.”
“Even if it’s a yes opinion, they still have to go through the planning commission and stuff because of our zoning bylaws. There’s still a long ways to go with this,” Vigneault said.
The developer, Eolian Renewable Energy of Portsmouth, N.H., has proposed a 20-turbine wind project for Seneca Mountain capable of producing an estimated 60 megawatts of electricity.
A previous version of the proposal would have put some of those turbines in other area towns with established local governments and populations, but residents strongly opposed that plan and it was dropped.
There are two industrial wind operations in the Northeast Kingdom, not far from Seneca Mountain, but both met strong local opposition before their construction.
In a presentation to UTG residents on Nov. 11, the developer said that none of the turbines would be closer than a half mile to any residence and that the project would help reduce local property taxes while creating 150 construction jobs and up to a dozen permanent positions.
Proponents say the only way to gauge opinion is to ask the property owners, but others counter it would be unprecedented to let property owners who don’t live in the area permanently cast ballots.
Located in one of the most remote areas of Vermont, the Northeast Kingdom communities of Averill, Avery’s Gore, Ferdinand, Lewis, Warner’s Grant and Warren’s Gore have a combined land area of about 164 square miles but only 51 permanent residents and 39 registered voters. But there are about 450 property owners, including timber companies and people who own seasonal properties often used for hunting.
At its last meeting, the board of governors decided each property owner would get one vote, even if he or she owns multiple parcels, meaning ballots will be sent to 395 people, Vigneault said.
“The people who talk to me are just about 50-50, in all honesty,” Vigneault said. “I have people that come in that are really for them. I get people that come in that are really against them.”MORE IN Vermont News
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