BRIGHTON - The Brighton Planning Commission is expected to vote to support the Northeastern Vermont Development Association's (NVDA) call for a three-year moratorium on industrial wind development in the area. Two industrial wind projects are already operating in Lowell and Sheffield. The draft letter under consideration was suggested by commission member Billy Hawkins in light of the proposed Seneca Mountain Wind project consisting of three dozen wind turbines in Brighton, Newark, and Ferdinand.
Town of Brighton Administrative Assistant Joel Cope was asked to author a letter to area legislators asking for their support in imposing a moratorium on further projects in the Northeast Kingdom. “The commission supports language in the new town plan consistent with NVDA's position,” Cope stated. “It's a draft at this time; it hasn't been voted on by Commission members.”
In conjunction with the planning commission's work on the town plan, the Brighton Select Board mailed a survey regarding industrial wind development in the town to both residents and non-resident land owners. The question is, “Do you support industrial wind power on the ridge lines in Brighton?”
Results of the survey were made available on Wednesday of last week. The non-voting landowners opposed development by a margin of 289 against, 189 in favor, and 53 undecided. Voters in the town also opposed development with 255 opposed, 131 in favor, and 34 undecided.
The public opinion poll is important in that Eolian Renewable Energy, LLC and Nordex-USA, which own Seneca Mountain Wind (SMW), sent letters to Newark, Brighton, and the Board of Governors for the Unified Towns and Gores of Essex County in early September promising to respect the communities' wishes. Jack Kenworthy, manager at SMW, submitted a letter to the Town of Brighton stating, “SMW is submitting this letter to the Board to demonstrate our willingness to commit to the outcome of a properly warned town wide ballot vote, once a wind project has been proposed and the full accurate details discussed.”
At this time, SMW has submitted an application for a Certificate of Public Good from the Public Service Board for the construction of four MET towers, which are used to assess the project's wind potential.
A public hearing in October, set by the select board, established a panel format in which parties representing both sides of the issue were allowed to make presentations and then take questions and comments from the public. Following the meeting, the select board decided to issue a public notice and mail out the survey question to gauge the community's feelings toward industrial wind development.
One caveat in the survey results is the carefully worded letter from SMW; the company will only respect the outcome of a vote after the wind project has been proposed before the PSB. Until SMW can analyze results of the MET test towers, and make a determination of how many towers and which specific locations are chosen, the vote is not binding on their September promise.
In any event, the survey results and actions by the planning commission serves notice on SMW that getting approval of a large industrial operation that includes locating towers within the Town of Brighton is going to be an uphill battle.