Grafton Second Home Owners Want Say In Wind Project

Jan 19, 2016

A group of second home owners wants to be able to vote on a controversial commercial wind project that Iberdrola Renewables hopes to build in Grafton.

Grafton will likely hold a nonbinding vote on the project, but only registered voters are currently on the voter checklist.

Jud Hartmann gave a letter to the selectboard Monday with the names of 34 nonresidential property owners who he says want to weigh in on the wind project.

"We as non-resident taxpayers provide at least 60 percent of the revenue to keep the town running," Hartmann said. "And yet, the way things stand now we have no voice in whether this project happens or not. And we feel that is an injustice."

Iberdrola wants to build Vermont's largest commercial wind project, with 28 turbines, on a high plateau along the Grafton-Windham town line.

The company says it will honor the outcome of the votes, which will likely be held in the two towns in November.

Grafton Town Administrator Rachel Williams said there would be no legal way to include the nonresidents in the town vote, but Selectboard Chairman Sam Battaglino said he thinks the nonresidents should be able to somehow vote on the wind project.

Members of the Grafton Selectboard listen to Jud Hartmann speak at a meeting Monday.
Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

"I think their position should be known," Battaglino said. "Some of these people have been here for generations and I think we're all aware of what they contribute to the town."

The reaction was mixed among Grafton residents who attended the selectboard meeting.

"You could very well establish a precedent by saying you are allowing another group of people to vote," Stan Mack said. "Maybe they won't want to see their taxes go up on other issues, and in five years or 10 years people can say, 'You allowed that to happen then, let's do it now.'"

"We as non-resident taxpayers provide at least 60 percent of the revenue to keep the town running. And yet, the way things stand now we have no voice in whether this project happens or not. And we feel that is an injustice." - Jud Hartmann, Grafton second home owner

But Lissa Kissel said other towns in Vermont have been able to hold votes with nonresidents.

"It is not a matter of law. It is a matter of what the town decides to do," Kissel said. "Other towns have found it possible to include all of the community. It's perfectly OK. It's been done several times before."

Iberdrola laid out preliminary plans on the project in October, and the company is continuing to do environmental tests as it finalizes the turbine locations.

The company has proposed building 20 turbines in Windham and another eight in Grafton. Company officials say they will present more information on the 96-megawatt wind project in the spring.

The board did not make a decision, but said they would do research on whether there was a way to include non-residents in a vote.