As a Town of Windham resident, I have observed the activity related to the wind farm proposed for our town (and Grafton) which has been dominated by very vocal opposition. For my own peace of mind, I am compelled to publicly state some of the positive reasons for supporting wind energy in Windham. I speak for myself, but there are many others who have quietly expressed similar opinions.
I see our land here as a resource to be well managed. I relate to our town's working past as a farming area, a place once nearly clear-cut for its timber, the former home of two mining quarries, and an area where many now make their living providing services for others who come here to enjoy the mountains. Many in town also use the land to produce their own food. So I see the wind farm as yet another way to make good use of the land.
Some in Windham have said they see our town as a "retirement community." I see it as a town for folks of all ages, incomes, and backgrounds – a diverse community. The wind farm would enhance that by providing us with a sizable cut in municipal taxes, making it more affordable to live here. It also would provide jobs during the construction and afterwards with the operation and maintenance, bringing new folks here. Some might have children in our elementary school, and more children here would not only make this a more vibrant place to live, it could mean a reduction in the school tax rate.
A beautiful and healthy environment is also important to me, but not just for my own backyard. Wind energy is key to Vermont's efforts to increase our state's usage of renewable energy in order to address global warming. The 500-foot turbines would not be an eyesore but rather a working statement of commitment to a healthy planet. I believe it is more important to work for the common good of the state, nation, and world than to protect any individual's personal interest. And, yes, if I lived closer to the proposed wind farm, I would still be in favor of it.
Like those who oppose the project, I researched the topic on the Internet. Like them, I found articles that concluded that wind production can cause health problems. But I found more credible reports that said the opposite. The studies that interested me most were those which found that some people who feared wind turbines prior to project installation later felt sick because of them, while people who had no such fear did not feel sick. That fits with the awareness that negative expectations often result in adverse effects and that our emotions impact our bodies.
Unlike some others, I am not afraid that the land owner and developer are scoundrels or that working for a wealthy land owner or an international corporation makes one a liar and a cheat. Even if that were true, Vermont has standards that developers must meet before a wind farm is approved and that are enforced during and after the life of a wind farm.
Concerns can be further addressed for each specific site by having a carefully-crafted legal agreement with enhanced protections and benefits achieved through negotiations between the town and the developer. Such negotiations are now underway between knowledgeable Windham residents and representatives of Iberdrola, the developer.
Unfortunately, many who oppose the wind farm, including two of our three select board members, also oppose negotiations. Their stand is, in a nutshell, to emphatically say "No!" to Iberdrola. They fear that negotiations will make the wind farm possibility more appealing to residents who will vote in November on whether the project will proceed. They say, "No!" to enhanced protections and benefits out of fear that the majority will then rule in favor.
I have never known a "just say no" approach to work on any social issue. It only sets up a black and white, for or against situation that does not recognize the complexity of issues or the need to respect others' opinions. "Just say no!" fuels divisiveness and hard feelings. It is my hope that my "no!" neighbors will relax their stance and accept the validity of others' opinions and the importance of negotiations for a fair vote and, if the project proceeds, for the best outcome for our community.
Mary McCoy has served Windham in the past as assistant town clerk, leader of the Windham Broadband Project, and long-time contributor to the Windham News & Notes. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.