Second home owners in Windham say they will hold their own referendum on a proposed commercial wind project, even though the project developer has refused to consider their votes.
The Spanish energy company, Iberdrola Renewables, says it will honor a vote in Windham on its controversial wind project, but only full-time residents should be able to vote.
Roy Giarrusso has owned a second home in Windham since 1999 and he says the non-residential taxpayers deserve a voice in the process.
"We pay more than 60 percent of the taxes in the town of Windham," Giarrusso said. "Our property values will be decreased just like everyone else's. So we're going to be impacted, just like everyone else, so there's no reason to exclude us."
Iberdrola needs to file for a state permit for the project, but it doesn't need local approval.
Paul Copleman, an Iberdrola spokesman, said the nonbinding referendum could impact the official vote.
"Having an elected town official validate an anti-wind group’s informal poll raises serious questions about verification accuracy and impartiality," Copleman said in an email. "It seems to undermine the interests of the registered voters of Windham."
Copleman said Vermont law doesn't permit non-residents to vote in local or statewide votes.
"If you’re going to start allowing people, who have chosen to live and registered to vote in other states, to also vote in Vermont, where do you draw the line about who gets to vote, and on what topics?" he said.
Giarusso said letters were sent out to every second home owner in Windham, to give them a chance to weigh in on the wind development.
The non-resident property owners will have until Oct. 7 to return their ballots.
Even though Iberdrola is not going to consider the votes, Giarusso said the Windham Select Board needs to know how the second home owners feel about the 20 turbines that are proposed for Windham.
The company wants to build the 96-megawatt energy project on a plateau along the Windham-Grafton town line.
Registered voters in Windham will cast their ballots on the wind project at the polls on Election Day in November.