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November 15. 2012 10:53PM

Wind farm meeting gets heated

DANBURY - The third of three public "open house" meetings this week by a company planning to build a 37-tower wind farm got off to a rocky start Thursday night when the company's project manager refused to open the floor to questions from a crowd of about 90.

Ed Cherian of Iberdrola Renewables, a wind-energy company in the early permit stages for its Meadows Wind Power Project, led off the Danbury meeting with a 15-minute slide show explaining the project, as he had done Tuesday night in Grafton and Wednesday night in Alexandria, the other two towns involved in the project.

But after his presentation, Cherian said the meeting would continue with small-group question-and-answer sessions.

In Alexandria and Grafton, Cherian took questions from the audience.

In response, Betsy Schneider of Alexandria, a member of Newfound Lake Wind Watch, shouted: "This is your town! Please speak up."

A few Danbury residents asked why the group part of the meeting was closed, but the meeting went on as an open house soon after.

Cherian later said discussions at the previous two meetings were taken over by members of the Wind Watch.

"In the past two nights, the discussions were dominated by one group that ended up taking most of the discussion time, versus the silent majority that didn't get to speak," Cherian said.

Wind Watch opposes the project, saying it would damage the "viewshed" from the Newfound Lake-Cardigan Mountain State Park area, and would cause a loss in tourism dollars and land values.

"They lost the last two nights, so they are trying to keep everyone quiet in Danbury," Schneider said.

John Michels, a Danbury resident with 300 acres abutting the 6,000 acres already secured by lease for the project in the three towns, asked the crowd to let the meeting break up into small groups so he could get the information he needs to assess the project.

"I'm all for wind power, and if it was just about wind power, I'd be all in favor of this," Michels later said. "But as an abutter of the project, it's a totally different situation."

Cherian explained that the turbine towers would be more than 400 feet - roughly 40 stories - in height, and would be placed near the tops of area hills and ridges.

Each would be lighted at night. Cherian said local permits are not necessary for the project, but representatives from each town "will have a seat at the table" during the state approval process, which will probably take a year.

He said there will be several more public hearings.

Iberdrola has a wind farm in Groton that will go online next month.

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Paula Tracy may be reached at ptracy@unionleader.com.

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