LYMAN NEW HAMPSHIRE
Three petitioned town meeting warrant articles are the latest ammunition aimed at UPC Wind Management by residents opposed to the company's efforts to measure the capacity for a wind farm atop Gardner Mountain.
Submitted by lifelong resident Brian Santy, the articles seek language changes to the town's zoning ordinance that will clearly eliminate the possibility of either a wind-measuring device or a wind energy facility within town.
"I had no problem at all (getting signatures)," Santy said Friday morning. "I could've got 80 or 90, but all I needed was 25, and I went over 30 ... I don't even think I had one person refuse to sign it that I went to."
Tim Caffyn, a project manager from UPC, first applied for a variance on the town's 35-foot height ordinance this summer. The zoning board of adjustment denied granting a variance, saying the company had not met the five required criteria for a variance, and UPC later withdrew its application.
The company is one of a major international conglomerate with U.S. headquarters in Newton, Mass.
UPC submitted a second height variance application in late September, with an Oct. 20 hearing continued to Thursday evening. The ZBA is scheduled to vote on that application Jan. 13. Residents have turned out en masse to the hearings to oppose UPC's efforts, and their resistance has spread beyond the meeting room of town hall.
Almost as soon as UPC filed its first variance application, part-time residents Lisa and Jonathan Linowes started a group called Lyman Citizens for the Protection of Gardner Mountain. The Linoweses, who say they plan to become full-time residents next year, and some of their Lyman neighbors have hired an attorney to argue against UPC. They also helped draft the warrant articles submitted by Santy.
About 190 - out of roughly 280 registered voters - have also signed a petition opposing approval of a height variance. And a citizen appeal to overturn the board of selectmen's waiver of a use variance requirement was successful - the ZBA voted Thursday night to require UPC to obtain a use variance in addition to its height variance application.
Vocal opposition at public hearings has been strong. And nobody in Lyman turned out for a Nov. 20 bus trip organized by Caffyn to visit the wind energy facility in Searsburg, Vt.
"The (Gardner Mountain) ridge is one of the few defining elements in this town," resident Melanie Hamilton said during Thursday's hearing. "This is a town that has rural character, and people want it to remain a rural environment."
Caffyn has said that, should the ridge be determined a promising site for a wind farm, up to 20 wind turbines measuring 320 feet high could be erected on Gardner Mountain. Because of their height, the towers would need to be lighted. Gardner Mountain runs much of the length of the main road through town and is on the town's official stationery.
"It would be kind of strange to see wind towers on the letterhead," said resident Roy Foss Thursday night. "I can't say I'm against (wind energy). But I'm against it in my face."
Caffyn, who could not be reached in his West Burke, Vt., office Friday for comment, has also stated publicly that if Lyman residents oppose UPC's involvement in town, the company will look elsewhere for potential sites to develop a wind energy facility. But UPC has shown no signs of leaving quietly, even in the face of obvious disinterest from many in Lyman.
"It troubles me that they are not willing to accept that, but feel that they have to convince us that we're wrong," resident Mark Chain said Thursday night.
The first of the petitioned articles submitted by Santy seeks "to define a tower, pole, or similar structure erected to facilitate scientific wind data gathering as an industrial use." The second is "to provide for a definition of temporary structures ... that expressly excludes structures erected or installed on a temporary basis to gather scientific wind data."
Lisa Linowes said Friday afternoon that those two articles simply "clarify the law" outlined by Lyman's zoning ordinances. The articles also address Caffyn's claim that the anemometer, or wind measuring device, should be allowed because it is a temporary structure, and that it is strictly a scientific instrument, not one of an industrial nature.
The third article, Linowes said, "adds purpose to the existing height ordinance." It seeks to add a paragraph to that ordinance to "protect the town from intrusive structures that visually pollute and upset Lyman's rural character."
That character includes a number of picturesque farms no longer operational - Santy's dairy farm is the last one in town - old farm houses, a New England-style church with a tall spire, and a population of about 500 people.
Santy's concern about the potential for development of a wind farm is partly based on his farm's location.
"I've got the best view of the mountain in the town, probably," he said.
But he's confident the ZBA will not grant a height variance to UPC in January, and he hopes the three petitioned articles will pass, providing added insurance that the wind company will be kept out of town.
"I've put hundreds of hours in, going around talking to people and going to the meetings," Santy said Friday. "Because if I don't do it now, after they're up, it's too late."