LOWELL, Vermont — Lowell voters affirmed their support Tuesday for Green Mountain Power's Kingdom Community Wind project that is making electricity for the region on a ridgeline above the community.
The votes were cast at Lowell's Town Meeting Day over 50-cent coffee and 50-cent doughnuts at the Lowell Graded School.
Communities use Town Meeting Day to elect municipal officers, approve budgets, examine zoning bylaws, authorize long-term capital borrowing and decide town operating calendars.
Lowell rejected an anti-wind project resolution that the Vermont Supreme Court ordered them to consider after they passed over it in 2012. This year, the paper vote was 110 against the resolution, 27 for it.
"It's so important to Green Mountain Power to have strong community support, and we are very grateful for the trust that the people of Lowell have placed in us," Mary Powell, company president and chief executive, said in a statement.
"I'm all for renewable resources, as opposed to sending our dollars to foreign powers who hate our guts," Town Auditor Arlon Warner said. "The more we can rely on renewable energy, wind, hydro, solar, the more self-sufficient we can be to keep dollars in the United States and within the state of Vermont, too."
In 2010, before Kingdom Community Wind was built, 75 percent of Lowell residents voted for the project.
Money to the town from Green Mountain Power meant Lowell residents paid less in property taxes last year, although Wesolow worries that loopholes in the contract with the company might someday threaten its financial contributions.
"It is not unheard of for corporations to renege on contracts and leave you holding the bag so that is a very real threat," Wesolow said during the meeting.
In an email, company spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure said Green Mountain Power honors its commitments.
"Our financial commitment is to pay property taxes, which are locked down in an agreement with the town," Schnure wrote.
But Roger Willey said that for him, it's more than a money issue. The back of his house is within a mile of three wind turbines that he says cause sound and light problems for him.
"It depends on the direction of the turbines themselves on how much noise that I hear, at some points I can hear it in the house and then outside when the generators and the turbines are running, it's constant humming noise," Willey said.
Nancy Warner, president of the Lowell Mountains Group, said some policies need changing. A sister-in-law to Arlon Warner, she said the nonprofit group would like to see an independent sound study of the project and consideration of compensating property owners affected by any problems.
"We have a right in a democracy to be for and against," she said. "What we have an absolute responsibility for on the local level and on the state level is to make sure that none of our Vermonters are hurt."
Green Mountain Power says the company monitors the sound in accordance with Vermont Public Service Board protocol and the company's operating standard is "one of the strictest in the country."
Despite the Lowell vote, Nancy Warner said she felt hopeful about progress on energy issues. "I feel really good about the outcome of this project in this community because it is helping others take a much stronger look," she said.