Grafton Planning Commission won’t present draft Town Plan to Select Board on Monday

Grafton Planning Commission members from left, David Acker, remotely by computer Rex James, Liisa Kissel, Eric Stevens and John Plummer. Photos by Cynthia Prairie

Grafton Planning Commission members from left, David Acker, remotely by computer Rex James, Liisa Kissel, Eric Stevens and John Plummer. Photos by Cynthia Prairie

By Cynthia Prairie
©2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Grafton Planning Commission will not be presenting a draft Town Plan at the Monday, Oct. 3 Select Board meeting as the board had hoped, a development that Select Board chair Ron Pilette called “very disappointing.”

The board has considered the Town Plan — even a draft — as a crucial element in preparing registered voters to cast ballots on the Iberdrola wind project. The board has also been pulling together information through three committees and is planning on a meeting on a wind project’s impact on hydrology. That meeting is set for the second week in October. Iberdrola, a Spanish wind company, has said it would abide by a vote of registered voters in Grafton and Windham on whether they are for or against the 28-turbine project that straddles the two communities.

(In another development: Iberdrola has invited the public
to two meetings on Oct. 4 and Oct. 5. Click here for more information.)

The Grafton Planning Commission met for two hours on Monday.

The Grafton Planning Commission met for two hours on Monday.

But the Planning Commission, at its Monday, Sept. 26 meeting, worked in fits and starts after receiving a “heavily edited” Energy Chapter just prior to the meeting. Commission chair Eric Stevens said he worked on editing the chapter until 2 a.m. and didn’t email out the rewritten 10-page document to the commissioners but provided copies just before the meeting.  You can read that version of the Energy Chapter here.

Saying that it is difficult to work with a document that has just been received, commission member Liisa Kissel expressed consternation that the panel was not given more time to look over the 10-page document before the meeting started.

That would have been a simple irritant had it not been revealed that Stevens had actually emailed a copy of the Energy Chapter earlier in the day to Select Board member Al Sands. That fact came to light when commissioners realized that commission member Rex James, who was attending the meeting remotely, did not have access to a copy of the new draft Energy Chapter. After some discussion on the ways to email James a copy, Sands, who was in the audience, told Stevens that he had just emailed a copy to James using his Smartphone.

Kissel listens as Stevens explains his reasons for not sending out documents to the commission.

Kissel listens as Stevens explains his reasons for not sending out documents to the commission.

Kissel asked how it came to be that a Select Board member had received a copy before any commissioner and if other Select Board members in the audience — chair Ron Pilette and members John Turner and Skip Lisle — also had copies. They did not and expressed surprise over the situation.

While Kissel addressed the question again to Stevens, Sands said he didn’t know why he received a copy other than he had been gone for three weeks, suggesting that it would bring him up to speed on events.

“I find that procedure highly irregular and very unhelpful.” said Kissel. Stevens then said that what he had done was similar to a how Kissel had handled a related matter.

In an interview on Tuesday, Stevens said he uses Sands as a “sounding board” to read over such documents. He added that his action on Monday “follows the same procedure that has been used against other commissioners” in not producing electronic copies. He then pointed to Kissel and agreed that his action was “tit for tat.”

He added that he also did not want to give the other commissioners his edited version of the Energy Chapter early  because it would “give them ammunition to tear it apart then, instead of looking at it at Monday’s meeting and returning for a later meeting to discuss.”

Stevens also separated the Town Plan from the November wind vote, a link that Pilette has drawn as he attempted to get the town to move forward with a binding vote on the Iberdrola wind project on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Stevens said, “I don’t think the Town Plan has anything to do with the wind vote. … I don’t see the emergency as others do in seeing a Town Plan rushed through. (At this point) we can’t provide an actionable plan to the Select Board.”

He also expressed his concern for the direction of the Energy Chapter, saying, “The Town Plan could make the Certificate of Public Good process more difficult for Iberdrola down on the line if the language of Liisa and others were to prevail and I don’t want that to happen.”

In an interview on Tuesday on the delay, Pilette said he is “not quite sure what way we (the Select Board) will go. We need to think of what will work best for the town. We can’t have any more delays from the Planning Commission and we need to make decisions on Monday.”

 

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having 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. Joe says:

    Why? Why does the vote depend on a town plan? Article IV of the 2013 Grafton town meeting determined that the VOTERS of Grafton would determine the position the town takes on this wind project, not just a five-member majority of the Planning Commission and a three-member majority of the Select Board.

    The vote should influence the Town Plan, not the other way around. And since the PSB will be looking at the Town Plan and not the vote, it stands to reason the vote should happen BEFORE the Town Plan is adopted and the plan should reflect the vote.

    Stop the shaming and constant insinuations of impropriety. That’s what will be remembered with shame when this whole chapter is looked back on.

  2. Anita says:

    Shame on you, Eric Stevens. You know very well that the Town Plan has a LOT to do with the wind vote AND the decision for a Certificate of Public Good for Iberdrola! You even state that it could negatively affect the CPG “if the language of Liisa and others were to prevail.” You contradicted yourself. If you don’t think that the Town Plan has anything to do with the wind vote, then why are you concerned about the language of Liisa and others?