Nelsons and GMP reach settlement

Shirley and Don Nelson at their home in July of 2013.  Photo by Chris Braithwaite

Shirley and Don Nelson at their home in July of 2013. Photo by Chris Braithwaite

copyright the Chronicle April 16, 2014

by Bethany M. Dunbar

LOWELL — Don and Shirley Nelson have reached a settlement with Green Mountain Power that says the power company will pay them $1.3-million for their home and 540 acres of their farm.

The couple has up to two years to stay in their home and will keep 35 acres of the property on the Albany side of the town line.

The Nelsons said in a statement that they intend to “move from their farm to a location well away from the turbines.”

They said the place has been in the family for 72 years.

The Nelsons have been fighting the Lowell wind project since it was first announced and published a letter to the editor about it as recently as March 26 of this year.  That letter said that the Vermont Department of Health had done nothing about talking to neighbors about health complaints associated with the wind turbines, which, with blades, are 460 feet high.

In October of 2011 Green Mountain Power sued the Nelsons in Orleans Superior Court for damages for delaying the project.  The Nelsons filed a counterclaim, saying, among other things, that the property line was in dispute and their contractors had carelessly endangered people on their land with blast debris.

The Nelsons said in their statement that if they had fought their court case to its conclusion, they were confident they would have prevailed, but with all the associated court expenses and time delay it was better to settle.

“The Nelsons stated that once the turbines were built, it was clear they were not coming down and the effect on Lowell Mountain was irreversible,” the statement says.  “They made the decision they would not remain in their Lowell Mountain hill farm in the shadow of the turbines.”

A statement by Dorothy Schnure of Green Mountain Power (GMP) says the agreement meets the needs of the Nelsons as well as the customers of GMP, so both parties can move forward.

“Kingdom Community Wind is an important part of our growing investment in renewable energy in Vermont,” GMP’s statement says.  “It is an ongoing priority for us to deliver clean, cost-effective, renewable energy to customers including wind, solar, and hydroelectricity.  Vermonters place a high value on the competitively priced, low-carbon energy developed at the site.  Kingdom Community Wind is a critical part of that effort to ensure a clean-energy future in Vermont, and since 2012, the project has generated enough electricity to power more than 24,000 homes.”

The Nelsons had considered selling the place about four years ago and originally offered it for sale at $1.5-million.  In September of 2010, a realtor told the Chronicle the price had gone down to $1,070,000.

That month, the Nelsons walked away from an offer that would have put the farm’s development rights into the Vermont Land Trust’s hands.  When the Nelsons were told by a representative of the land trust that GMP would be involved and the deal would include a provision that the new owner would not oppose the wind project, the Nelsons turned it down.

Part of the dispute in the court case was the property boundary between the Nelsons’ land and the property on which the wind project was built.  Protesters of the project carefully stood on the disputed property.

“As part of the settlement, Green Mountain Power agreed it would not oppose post-conviction relief sought by the citizen protesters who were convicted of trespass for standing on land that the Nelsons claim is theirs,” the Nelsons’ statement says.  “Green Mountain Power acknowledged that the legal status and title to the land was in dispute.”

In an interview in July of 2013, the Nelsons told the Chronicle that Shirley Nelson was experiencing ringing in her ears and sometimes a feeling like pins sticking in her ears.  She also had recurring headaches and trouble sleeping.

“Some days I am very tired,” she said in an e-mail at the time.  It is hard to stay awake on such days, she said, and “It is hard to concentrate and I find I am unable to do simple things like balance a checkbook.”

The blades also created a light-flickering effect from blade shadows spinning through their kitchen and front lawn.

“The Nelsons expressed their gratitude to their many friends and neighbors who have battled with them to oppose the construction of wind turbines on Lowell Mountain,” said the Nelsons in their statement.

Speaking for the opponent group called Ridge Protectors, Steve Wright of Craftsbury issued a statement saying that the Nelsons are heroes for raising important environmental concerns about the turbines and wishing them “the peace and quiet they deserve.”

Vermonters for a Clean Environment also issued a statement thanking the Nelsons for their efforts.

contact Bethany M. Dunbar at bethany@bartonchronicle.com

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