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Saturday, February 05, 2005

SHELBURNE - Jon Fishman decided to splurge on some property fronting on Lake Champlain, he says, because it's perfectly suited for renewable energy like wind and solar power.

But now the proposal for a 10-kilowatt wind turbine by the drummer for the recently dissolved rock band Phish is raising concerns about aesthetics among his neighbors.

Most of the controversy about wind power towers in Vermont has focused on proposed turbines on the state's mountain ridge lines. Now the debate has moved to a stretch of land that is 148 feet above sea level.

Fishman says his proposed 116-foot wind tower would provide electricity for his home.

"Basically, Jon Fishman is walking the talk on the environment," said David Blittersdorf, founder of NRG Systems in Hinesburg, the renewable energy company working with Fishman on the project, "but there are people who don't want him to do it."

Andrea Van Hoven, chairwoman of Shelburne's Natural Resources and Conservation Committee, contends that's not quite the case.

"This is a very difficult issue for us," Van Hoven said. "All of us agree that wind power is a wonderful alternative; the only question is its visual impact. We're extremely torn. We're not saying it shouldn't happen, we're just concerned about the scenic effects."

Shelburne town officials, many of whom have demanded changes in Vermont Electric Power Company's plan to upgrade power transmission lines in town to lessen the visual impact of the project, are requesting the Public Service Board hold a hearing before issuing the "certificate of public good" needed for the wind turbine to be built.

Fishman, as required by law, applied for the public good certificate Sept. 27. The state, not the town, has jurisdiction over energy projects, so a board hearing presents the only opportunity for the town to weigh in.

"There may be some conflict with requirements in the town plans," planning commission chairman Rick Peterson said of Fishman's proposed project. "We want to make sure that the Public Service Board is aware of our concern."

from the private archives of pidibi