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Developer says foes won't deter wind power project

Union Leader Correspondent

January 09. 2014 7:24PM

DANBURY — Though residents and town leaders in Danbury and Alexandria are on record as strongly opposing the Wild Meadows wind farm project, the company behind the project says it will go forward.

Danbury selectmen said the ballot results of a vote taken last month would set the town's stance on the project. The count Wednesday night showed 249 residents opposed to the project and 116 residents in favor it.

Selectmen in Alexandria officially adopted their residents' stance against the project Tuesday night.

But officials from Iberdrola Renewables aren't taking the Danbury vote as a sign that the town opposes Wild Meadows. The ballots went to 790 registered voters in town, and fewer than half responded.

"We appreciate the efforts of Danbury's town leaders to solicit the views of local voters, but don't think the low level of responses provides an accurate reflection of local sentiment," said Paul Copleman, communication manager for Iberdrola Renewables, which wants to build a 75.9-megawatt wind farm with 23 500-foot turbines in view of Cardigan Mountain and Newfound Lake.

"We have consistently said that we would not seek to move the project forward without local support. There is support — and opposition," he said. "We appreciate the level of support and want to respect the rights of the local loggers and farmers who have leased their land to us, but we still have work to do."

Iberdrola officials were asked about Alexandria's adopted position, but did not answer. Earlier this week, Alexandria officials tried to make the point clear. Despite offering the towns hundreds of thousands in payments each year, the proposal was rejected.

"The town is against this, plain and simple," said Alexandria Selectman Donnie Sharp. "I don't even want to talk about it."

Iberdrola and its local company, Atlantic Wind, don't need agreement from residents or the governments of the two towns to build. The authority for the project's permit rests with the state's Site Evaluation Committee, though the company is seeking local cooperation.

"They don't need our approval," said Alexandria Selectman George Tuthill. "All we can do now is make it as difficult for them here as possible."

Selectmen from nearby towns also voiced their towns' opposition to the project at the Alexandria selectmen's meeting Tuesday night, and offered support to Danbury and Alexandria.

Bristol Selectman Janet Cole said, "I firmly believe we are a region of Newfound. You have the support of our communities. We'll do whatever you need us to do to fight this. Just tell us what you need." Bridgewater Selectman Terry Murphy said his town also supports Alexandria's decision. Murphy, a former property developer, said he examined the Iberdrola payment in lieu of taxes proposal and found it "very one-sided" financially in favor of Iberdrola Renewables.

"They're suckering everybody here," said Murphy, whose selectmen voted unanimously to oppose Wild Meadows when it was in discussion stages a year ago.

The towns will be able to comment during the yearlong SEC process for the project, state officials said, each with "a seat at the table" of the discussions and at SEC-sponsored local hearings.

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