Danbury voters block wind energy developments with new ordinances

March 13, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Voters in Danbury overwhelmingly supported four petition warrant articles that discourage or block industrial wind energy projects in their town at Tuesday’s annual meeting.

“This is a silent revolution sweeping the United States,” said petitioner Jody Troiano. “Little towns like Danbury and Alexandria and Hebron that are trying to fight industry from coming into their towns and destroying the beauty, the rural way of life, whatever it may be.”

Troiano and others led an effort in town to promote a “rights-based ordinance” that prohibits the siting of new energy projects that would violate residents’ rights to “health, safety and welfare.” It passed Tuesday night, 264-124.

The article says the ordinance “guarantee(s) residents’ right to determine their own energy future.”

Voters also passed, 254-116, an advisory to town selectmen that the residents oppose the creation of PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreements between the town and wind developers.

By a vote of 260-90, they passed an article requiring developers to post a bond to cover the cost of removing all equipment if the facility ceased operations.

And by a vote of 259-115, they passed an article requiring developers to provide a “property value guarantee” for property owners within 3 miles of a turbine.

The town’s attorney, Barton Mayer of Upton Hatfield, said yesterday he hasn’t reviewed the articles and knows of no case law that has addressed them.

“I’ve seen (similar ordinances) elsewhere; I think they raise a considerable number of issues that are novel, but since there’s no case law on it, I wouldn’t want to go further,” Mayer said. “There are unique issues presented in that ordinance that the court hasn’t addressed yet.”

That is partially the point, Troiano said.

“A rights-based ordinance has never been challenged in a court of law because no corporation wants to do that, to get in front of a judge and say our rights as a corporation are more important than the rights of the people of the town. No one wants to do that,” she said.

Exactly how the ordinance would work, she said she didn’t know.

Troiano said she became involved in the issue about eight months ago, when she moved full time to her home in Danbury from Boston, where she had grown up. She inherited 9 acres and a home on Wild Meadow Road from her uncle, a Boston-based lawyer, when he died about 15 years ago.

“At first it was like a joke. What’s this city girl going to do with a big bit of land up in nowhere Danbury, New Hampshire,” she said.

She gradually grew to love the rural location, the quiet, the dirt roads and the dark nights.

“When could you ever look up at the sky and see stars sparkling like diamonds in the city? I started to walk the field every day with my dog and just think, ‘Dear God, do something, Jody,’ ” she said.

“I got the greatest gift of all, I have this beautiful heritage to preserve and love and take care of. I was a city girl trying to get off the beaten track, the hustle and bustle, and run away to some peace and quiet. I put all my investments here to rent it. I’d be advertising peace and quiet, so to find out now that everything I’ve worked for, would you want to rent a vacation underneath 23 wind turbines?”

Troiano said she’s not a “NIMBY,” someone who objects to proposals just because they’re nearby or says “not in my backyard.”

“I worked hard all my life, I got kind of lucky like some people, but I could sell this and walk away and find another piece someplace else,” she said. “But I’ve chosen to stay and to fight for something, and this (rights-based ordinance) is the way I’ve chosen to fight.

“I believe in the people’s right to decide what is right for their communities and how they want their communities to work, and I don’t think any government agency or any corporation has more rights than the people. We have the right, we govern and that’s what this work is.”

Last month, Iberdrola, the Spanish developer that proposed building 23 turbines on Forbes Mountain, above Troiano’s property, put the project on hold while it deals with issues at its wind farm in Groton.

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

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