UPDATE: Response from Iberdrola;
Citing site concerns, Windham Select Board asks Iberdrola to suspend wind project

UPDATE: Below is the full text of the response received from Iberdrola on Wednesday night

By Cynthia Prairie
©2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Woodlands wind mapThe Select Board of the Town of Windham voted 2 to 1 at its Monday night meeting to send a letter to Iberdrola Renewables asking the Spanish wind turbine company “to suspend your involvement with this project immediately” and offering to go into negotiations with landowner Meadowsend Timberlands in an attempt to “acquire” the Stiles Brook property “so that it might be preserved for the good of us all as opposed to its being utilized to enrich parties with no concern for our town, our region, and our people.”

Iberdrola is hoping to build 20 500-foot turbines in Windham and eight in Grafton.

The letter comes in response to identical letters dated June 13 from Iberdrola development manager Jenny Briot, one addressed to Windham Select Board chair Frank Seawright and one addressed to Grafton Select Board chair Al Sands.

A copy of the letter to Briot, obtained by The Telegraph, is signed by Select Board members Frank Seawright, who is also chair, and Maureen Bell as well as Bob Bingham, chair of the Planning Commission. (Select Board member Kord Scott voted against sending the letter.)

The letter states that the site is unsuitable for such a project on many fronts and that the “Windham Town Plan expressly forbids industrial wind and is based on years of careful study.”

The letter goes on to detail problems related to topography, flooding and erosion, risks to wildlife, the degradation of water quality, and peril to human inhabitants.

The flooding section concludes, “Most importantly, Windham will not support a project that places our downstream neighbors at increased risk for flooding. We take an ethical and moral stance in relation to our neighbors in Grafton, Saxtons River, and Cambridgeport, and we abide by the dictum proposed by Wendell Berry: ‘Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.’ ”

You can read the full letter here.

Reached on Tuesday afternoon, Select Board member Maureen Bell said the purpose of the letter was to reiterate to Iberdrola “the point that the area is not suited to an industrial scale wind installation.”

She said the the town would like to acquire the 3,000 Windham acres of the 5,000 acre total, but  not necessarily through a monetary exchange.

Answering a request from the Telegraph by email, Briot said she had not yet received the document and so she could not comment by publication time. We will update the story when we hear more from her.

UPDATE: In an email received by The Telegraph on Wednesday night, Art Sasse, communications director of Iberdrola wrote:

“Voting is the most democratic action one can take in the USA so it’s disappointing that any elected official would seek to block registered voters from exercising this right.  We find it incredibly unfortunate and ironic that two elected officials in Windham are so unwilling to allow the very people who voted in their election to have their voices heard on this issue.  They once again appear to have played fast and loose with their own public process, hiding a draft letter from the public, and not providing the community any pre-meeting notification to send such communication, as required by Vermont’s open meeting laws. The letter is filled with false hoods, inaccuracies and slanderous rhetoric and the public should have been provided an opportunity to comment on the letter at a properly warned meeting before these two elected officials acted to send it.

The most democratic reflection of a community’s values and support for a project is through a vote. We believe a properly scheduled vote by registered voters in the community is the most transparent way to determine if the majority of residents of Windham support the Stiles Brook project which would be located on MTL’s privately owned land in Grafton and Windham. We remain committed to that outcome.

We will try and return this process to the proper path and formally respond directly to these two select board members, holding further direct comment until they have had a chance to see our response — And we’ll continue to work with the entire community in answering their concerns and delivering a potential project with numerous economic benefits, while producing the clean, carbon free affordable power that so many Vermont residents desire.”

Nancy Tips, a Windham resident whose home is about half a mile from seven of the proposed turbines, said that “the letter ­is exactly what Windham said to (Iberdrola) four years ago … that it went against the Town Plan. … it’s absolutely clear in the Town Plan.”

Tips, who is also a member of the  Friends of Windham, which describes itself as “fostering rational discussion of renewable energy ideas and proposals,” added that the only reason Iberdrola was given a Certificate of Public Good by the Public Service Board to erect three test towers to collect wind data was “because the Town Plan doesn’t specifically prohibit measuring devices.”

Tips added that the opposition in Windham — which she thinks might be at least 50 percent of the 419 full time residents and most of the 400 who claim Windham as a second residence — is not about homeowners worried about losing their views. She said that, instead,  a concern is “shadow flicker,” which is caused when light shines through the spinning arms, acting like a strobe light and triggering migraines in some people.

When asked if this letter might influence Grafton’s decision, Tips said, “I would hope so.”

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 30 years. She has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Annette Smith says:

    So, Stockton, you like Iberdrola and think it’s fine for a Spanish corporation to keep a town hanging in limbo for 4+ years? And letting a foreign corporation dictate the terms of a Vermont town’s vote is okay with you?

    Other towns have handled their own votes, they survey everyone. Windham and Grafton could have voted years ago, and probably should have.

    But Iberdrola keeps saying “you have to do it our way.” Nope, they weren’t allowed to vote until there was a plan. But oops. The plan that was presented got withdrawn from the ISO-NE queue. Technically there is no project at all, because they lost their place and have to reapply and a lot of others are now ahead of them.

    Now you’re not supposed to wait for the next plan (note that when it was withdrawn the project went down from 96.9 MW to something like 78 MW). So what’s that new plan? Nope, now they want the town to vote based on the money they are promising, based on the old plan? Sure, whatever Iberdrola says, the select board of Windham should do. It’s only fair, right, to let a foreign company dictate to a small town.

  2. Stockton Woodruff says:

    There is to be a vote on the issue. I should think it a dereliction of ones duty as a selectboard member to go to such lengths to keep the democratic process out of the hands of the very people they are supposed to be representing. Shame on them for this despicable action. They should resign their positions post-haste.