Irasburg working on first ever town plan

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IRASBURG — Some 25 citizens of Irasburg, including selectboard members Brian Sanville and David Warner, met with members of the town’s planning commission at a public hearing on a proposed Irasburg town plan, Thursday evening at the town hall.

Judith Jackson, planning commission clerk, described the immediacy of the need for a town plan, which would be Irasburg’s first.

Irasburg is currently among the few towns in Vermont without one.

“Without an approved town plan, Irasburg would be very vulnerable during any regulatory proceedings, including hearings before Vermont’s Public Service Board,” Jackson said. “We might be called upon at any time to defend our town and our community values from unwelcome exploitation. A town plan will be critical to help us do that successfully.”

During the summer of 2015, Irasburg citizens awoke to the threat of the construction of two 500-foot industrial wind towers on Irasburg’s Kidder Hill by developer David Blittersdorf.

On October 1, Irasburg voters rejected the use of town ridgelines for development by industrial wind projects by a vote of 274 to 9. Also on October 1, 2015, more than 400 Irasburg voters petitioned the selectboard to prohibit industrial wind projects on the town’s ridgelines and to develop a town plan that protects all of Irasburg’s ridgelines.

However, neither the vote nor the petition would be binding on a decision by the PSB whether to allow such a project to go forward. Successfully protecting the town’s ridgelines requires a town plan with clear, written community standards, defining which areas of the town are suitable, and which are not, for various forms of energy development.

Planning commission Chair Michael Sanville encouraged those at the hearing to share their concerns and questions about the draft plan.

“It’s your plan, not the planning commission’s or the selectboard’s,” Sanville said. “It is meant to express your views on our town’s future.”

David and Mary Lahar, who have a small-scale wind turbine at their home on Burton Hill, expressed concern that the plan might prohibit residential-scale energy installations like theirs.

Planning commission members agreed to amend the draft plan to allow for such installations and invited the Lahars to participate in drafting the plan’s chapter on energy.

Thursday’s hearing marks the halfway point in a 60-day process prescribed by Vermont statute for the adoption of a town plan.

A second hearing, this one held by the town’s selectboard, will take place at the end of May.

Copies of the draft Irasburg town plan are available for review at the Irasburg town clerk’s office and at the Leach Public Library.

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