Saturday, November 07, 2009

Towns want state rules for wind turbines

LARENDON — Legislation regulating the placement of wind turbines around the state ought to be considered by lawmakers during the next legislative session.

That was the main message delivered to Rutland County senators and representatives during a two-hour meeting on Wednesday at the Clarendon Grange Community Center.

Municipal officials, townspeople and residents from the neighboring communities of Tinmouth, Ira, Danby, Shrewsbury and West Rutland attended the meeting as did Rutland County Sens. Hull Maynard, William Carris and Kevin Mullin.

Reps. David Potter, D-Clarendon, Joseph Baker, R-West Rutland, and Eldred French, D-Shrewsbury were also there.

Legislation should include "a set of criteria" dictating where wind turbines ought to be sited with health risks, noise implications, public investments, aesthetics and other issues of concern addressed, according to Clarendon Select Board Chairman Michael Klopchin.

New laws regarding wind turbines should also consider local rules and regulations established in municipal zoning and planning ordinances, he said.

Klopchin explained the three-member state Public Service Board issued Vermont Community Wind Farm a certificate of public good allowing the company to install a meteorological testing tower on Susie's Peak despite local zoning that would have prohibited the structure.

The tower was erected to collect weather data as part of VCWF's plans for an 80-megawatt wind facility in Clarendon, Ira and other towns.

"We have three people who are appointed not elected with six-year terms — longer than any legislator or governor — making decisions for towns on a project that will impact the region for generations," Klopchin said.

The board chairman indicated the state ought to expand the PSB panel to a five- or seven-member board comprising citizens from varying districts around the state elected by voters from each district.

"If you have elected representatives, they would be more inclined to listen to the people who elected them," Klopchin said.

While there was some discussion on the topic, several people agreed legislation guiding the location of towers was a priority.

Potter responded he had sent an item to legislative counsel for review that would address many of those concerns. However, he noted any bill would likely be considered by the House Natural Resources and Energy committee, which he said had its hands full with Vermont Yankee and Hydro Quebec issues.

"There will be an attempt this session to put this on the table," Potter said.

Klopchin urged all legislators to "work hard to pass laws" during the coming year. "Many hands make light work," he said.

In other business, legislators were urged to consider ways to improve the state's education funding system in order to reduce the property tax burden on citizens.

Lawmakers were also encouraged to support town highway and bridge maintenance programs and find ways to streamline state highway grants to municipalities.

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