August 18, 2012
Dear Mr. Sanders,
I am writing to you as my very last resort because of a situation that is so unbelievable and frustrating for the neighbors of Georgia Mountain Community Wind (GMCW). This letter is not about whether wind is good or bad for Vermont’s ridgelines, but rather about dwindling property rights of Vermonters and the promise of 1603 federal grant money as an excuse to sue Vermonters.
My husband’s aunt, Jane FitzGerald is an abutting property owner to GMCW. My husband Scott and I are not abutters, but live across the road from the project. We were pro-se intervenors in the Section 248 approval process for the project, as was Aunt Jane. Aunt Jane’s son, Dan FitzGerald and his wife Tina FitzGerald and daughter, Heidi FitzGerald were also pro-se intervenors. I will admit that we all were not pleased when the project was approved by the Public Service Board, but that is not why I am writing. You see the PSB approved the project with two out of five wind towers placed approximately 155 feet from Aunt Jane’s property line. The edge of the access road for the project runs parallel to her property line and right up against it – no setback. GMCW has been blasting right up to her property line to build the road – no setback. They have been blasting right up to her property line at the turbine sites – no setback. They are not using blasting mats and they are setting off large blasts. Therefore, she has large amounts of flyrock from the blasting on her property. GMCW has also dug sediment basins on her property.
We took pictures of the flyrock and the basins and filed a complaint with the PSB. It took them one month to respond, while GMCW continued to blast even larger flyrock, further into Jane’s property. They finally responded that she should settle this matter in superior court. This is a problem that the PSB created, by approving the project with virtually no setbacks. Now they have washed their hands of it, thrown away the key and the only recourse a property owner has is to spend massive amounts of money on attorneys to sue? I’m sorry to say that Aunt Jane does not have that kind of money.
In an attempt to stop the blasting of flyrock onto Jane’s property, my husband Scott and his cousin Dan went up to the mountain on this past Thursday, 8/16, and put up two tents on Jane’s property, well inside her line, but within 1,000 feet of the blasting. At blasting time they were of course asked to move 1,000 feet back so that they were not in danger of getting hit by flyrock. Of course they refused, because Dan has every right to be anywhere he wants to be on his mom’s property, as did Scott as Dan’s guest. GMCW proceeded to call the Milton Police department and 2 officers and a detective came up. One of the officers was armed with an assault rifle. They admitted that they could not legally throw Dan off from his land and left. This did prevent them from blasting on that day.
On the next day, I went up on the mountain with Dan, Annette Smith from Vermonters for a Clean Environment and three representatives from the Vermont Department of Public Service and the Agency of Natural Resources to show them the flyrock and sediment basins on Jane’s property. While we were there, Dan was served with a restraining order to stay off from his own land, within 1,000 feet of the property line. His mom, Aunt Jane, was served as well at home. Both Dan and Jane have also been sued for damages by GMCW….for being on their own property. This is property that she has maintained over the years for the simple reason that she and her now deceased husband John wanted their kids and grandkids to be able to enjoy it by hiking, camping and hunting. That right has now been stolen from them.
I think that you would be especially interested to know that GMCW is using the Section 1603 grant from the U.S. Department of Treasury as an excuse to sue the FitzGeralds. GMCW will receive approximately eight million dollars from this grant, but only if the project is operational by December 31st of this year. They are claiming that the FitzGeralds are putting them in jeopardy of not receiving that grant money by stopping them from blasting once. Evidently, they are on a very tight schedule, but it seems ridiculous that one blast has affected their schedule that much. Did they not think that the neighbors would want to use their own land? Our tax dollars should not be given to such irresponsible developers. Of course it’s ultimately the Public Service Board’s fault for approving the project with no setbacks in the first place.
So there you have it. The FitzGeralds land has been taken away from them by a private company. They have not been compensated. They are being sued for using it. They are paying taxes on it. How is this okay?
If this is going to be the way of living in Vermont, then we need to make some changes. If a project is approved for the public good, it needs to be good for the neighbors as well. If land is going to be used and taken at the whim on the developer, then the neighbor needs to be compensated, not sued. And if the Public Service Board is going to make such approvals, then they need to do some policing of the projects and make sure that they are being built in a respectful manner.
There are many, many other issues with this project that we have complained about to the Public Service Board, who have responded with either “go to superior court” or no response at all, but this is by far the most atrocious and scary yet. My husband and I own 25 acres here on Georgia Mountain, and who is to say that someday, someone won’t be allowed to come along and decide that they want our back 10 acres and just be allowed to take it from us? Evidently, that is a real possibility here in Vermont now.
Please, please look into this matter. Anne Margolis from the Department of Public Service was one of the people who went up the mountain with us yesterday and witnessed Dan being served with the restraining order and lawsuit. Please contact her, and she will tell you that this is all true. She took pictures of the flyrock and the sediment basins and talked with other neighbors about problems that they have had with GMCW. Her number is (802)828-3058. Also, please visit Georgia Mountain the next time you are in Vermont.
Thank-you for your attention to this matter,
1179 Georgia Mountain Road
Fairfax, Vermont 05454
Hand delivered to Senator Bernie Sanders in Middletown Springs on Saturday, Aug. 18, after speaking about it in the public Q&A:
I would like to give voice to the people of this state and beyond whose lives, health, and livelihoods are being sacrificed in the name of Green industrial development.
Yesterday I hiked up Georgia Mountain in Milton, Vermont as part of a group that included representatives from the ANR and DPS that was led by a local resident and landowner. We were there when the landowner was given a restraining order to keep him off of his own land because he and others in support of him were cited as “interfering” with construction work by being present on his land. I learned this morning that Georgia Mountain Community Wind is also suing Dan and his 85-year-old mother.
After hiking down the mountain yesterday we stopped to visit with a man who lives on what WAS a quiet private road. This man’s homestead is now at the main access to the same industrial development site up on the mountain. His home address was given as the location for deliveries, which resulted in him receiving a letter from a project supplier notifying him if the bills were not paid they would put a lien on his property. Thirty two year old trees that he planted in front of his house were cut down when he was not home to make way for oversized trucks and equipment to get by. He was without power for a time and is still without phone service after three weeks since lines to his house were cut. As we stood in front of his home to talk there was a steady stream of trucks and heavy equipment going back and forth on the recently “improved” gravel road that now borders his property and is lined with cement barriers and huge construction signs. At the beginning of the private road a copy of the newly issued restraining order against his neighbor was posted on a signboard.
These people and their neighbors have had their homes rocked by and in at least one case physically damaged by, up to 7,000-pound blasts that have been going on for weeks. All the while their complaints are being ignored. Their attempts to give voice to their rights have time and time again been met with injustice and abuse.
I could go on to tell you about numerous other people around this state and beyond who have been drained financially and emotionally in their fights to hold onto their homes, and their livelihoods, and to protect themselves and their families to no avail. The damage and destruction does not end with the construction – what follows are the stories of illness and ruin that force people to leave the places that they called home.
The people that I met yesterday and many more like them are the victims of one more scam that is permitting economic, health, and environmental destruction in the name of Green Industry. The only Green in this business is the stuff filling the pockets of big corporations.
Middletown Springs, VT 05757
1. Private nuisance — cannot proceed with scheduled blasting, jeopardizing the project’s ability to get Treasury Grant moneys. Wrongful conduct being within the blast safety zone, encouraging others to be in the blast safety zone has unreasonably interfered with GMCW’s use and enjoyment of its property and its rights pursuant to the CPG. GMCW has suffered damages.2. Intentional interference with contract. Been present and or have encouraged others to be present within blast safety zone. Suffered damages and irreparable harm.3. Request for declaratory judgment. Entitled to declaratory judgment that defendants’ wrongful actions constitute a nuisance and entitle them to injunctive relief.
Seeking injunctive relief and damages, compensatory damages, interest, attorneys fees, costs.