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Residents protest wind project meetings

May 3, 2012

By Lucia Suarez

STAFF WRITER | May 03,2012

Protestors gathered in front of the Howe Center in Rutland on Tuesday to oppose a wind farm project proposed for Rutland County.

About 28 people wearing T-shirts that read “Don’t flat line our Green Mountains,” started to arrive around 5:30 p.m. on Strongs Avenue, holding signs that read “Save Pittsford ridgeline” and “Listen to ANR: Ridgeline is not renewable.”

“We are protesting the project. They want to disrupt the area,” said Nancy West of Castleton. “(We want) to stop them. We hope they stop the project.”

Vanessa Mills Holmquist of Pittsford said the developers have not been transparent.

“It’s been really troubling how they have been working the communities,” Mills said.

They were referring to Manchester-based wind developer Reunion Power, which has proposed a 20 turbine wind farm on the Grandpa’s Knob ridgeline. The project, which is expected to cost more than $100 million, would be able to produce up to 50 megawatts and touches West Rutland, Castleton, Hubbardton and Pittsford.

Reunion Power has partnered with international developer Nordex USA.

The protestors gathered at the Howe Center on Tuesday, their second consecutive day protesting, because the developer was holding an invite-only meeting with residents from West Rutland, who live 1 mile to 1.5 miles from the proposed site.

“My life is going to be changed if this goes through,” said Terry Burke of Castleton, who will meet with Reunion Power at a later date.

“Instead of holding public meetings and public information with residents, they hold these invitation only meetings,” said Lisa Garcia of West Rutland. “It’s a divide and conquer strategy.”

Steve Eisenberg, managing director at Reunion Power, said he felt Tuesday’s meeting went pretty well. He said people were very cordial and there was a good exchange of ideas.

“Some people stayed for quite a while,” he said on Wednesday. “I was surprised how long some people stayed.”

The meetings are structured to be informal discussions with residents. At least six meetings have been scheduled with specific residents — three in Rutland and three in Castleton.

“(We) hope to have a good discourse,” he said before the meeting Tuesday. “Provide information and hopefully that will be enough.”

Annette Smith, an opponent to the project from Danby, called the neighbor meetings “absolutely undemocratic” and “the biggest white-wash.”

“You’ve got to hear both sides. This is just a sales pitch,” she said. “I am extremely disappointed. I asked him to do it differently. … (If) you want to disrupt people’s life and get them out picketing, he is doing just that.”

When asked about the protestors at the Howe Center, Eisenberg said he respects different views and people’s ability to express themselves, but would prefer there is some dialogue.

Aside from the neighbor meetings, the developers are also planning to host two open house public meetings in June for all residents and have been invited by host town officials to provide an updated presentation for the project. Meetings are scheduled for May 14 in West Rutland, May 21 in Castleton. A meeting on June 6 has been tentatively set for Pittsford while a date in Hubbardton has not been set yet.

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