Letter: All property owners should get to vote on wind project

All property owners should get to vote on wind project

Editor of the Reformer:

An open letter to the Grafton Selectboard from property owners who are not residents of the town.

Iberdrola, an international power company based in Spain, is proposing to place 28 industrial wind turbines on the highest ridges between the towns of Grafton and Windham. With its planned 96 megawatts of capacity, the project would be the largest in Vermont. The project would have an enormous impact on nature, the local economy and the character of the town.

Iberdrola has stated in its letter of Nov. 25, 2015, to Grafton residents that it will not pursue the project if the town of Grafton is against it. Iberdrola proposes that the town hold a "vote" of registered voters after Iberdrola has presented a detailed proposal, which it has announced it will do "in the fall of 2016." It should be noted that the siting of a wind energy project is not a matter about which a vote is legally required. Nevertheless, we agree that it is imperative that the members of the Grafton community are given the opportunity to express their opinion on this project.

Given the extraordinary impact of the project on Grafton, and these exceptional circumstances, we believe that all members of the Grafton community should be polled to determine the town's position. Non-resident property owners are definitely members of the Grafton community, as they, like residents, contribute to the local economy, take part in Grafton's social life, actively and financially contribute to Grafton's and Windham County's institutions (Fire Department and Rescue Squad, Library, Grafton Cares, Elementary School, Historical Society, Grace Cottage Hospital), and pay approximately 60 percent of Grafton's taxes.

Therefore, we propose that, when a vote is deemed appropriate for a decision on the wind project, the Selectboard organize a referendum of all members of the Grafton community such as all registered voters and all tax payers, resident or non-resident who are not registered voters. In doing so, there should be maximally one vote per person; if properties are jointly held, all property holders would be entitled to vote. Finally the Selectboard subsequently, as the elected and legally constituted representatives of the town, would present the outcome of the vote to Iberdrola as the formal and only position of the town of Grafton on the matter.

Please note that there are clear precedents in Vermont for organizing such a referendum. In similar situations, the towns of Brighton, Londonderry, Newark as well as the unified towns and gores expressed their opinion on the siting of wind turbines via referenda including non-resident tax payers.

Jud Hartmann, On behalf of non-resident owners of 35 properties, Jan. 20


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