Getting out of Reunion’s grip
On Saturday, July 14, the Rutland Herald published a story on the front page about landowners speaking out about the windmill proposal in Pittsford, Hubbardton, Castleton and West Rutland. Also, in the Sunday July 15 edition of the Herald, an article by Mr. Greene depicting and articulatingthe deception that encompasses the processes that Reunion Power, aka Grandpa’s Knob Wind Park, employed during their negotiations with Mr. Greene.
In Mr. Greene’s letter, a reference is made to someone who has protected his land and ultimately the community. The individual to whom Mr. Greene was referring, is writing this article, and my name is Derek Saari. I own approximately 60 acres along the ridge in Pittsford that is being slated for massive destruction and an eventual revised USGS topo map due to the necessary and permanent alteration of this area’s rugged terrain.
In 2006, I received a letter from Noble Environmental, the developer to initiate the project, and at first, I simply ignored the letter. After a short period of time, a subsequent attempt to contact me was made by Mr. Robert Howland, a Pittsford resident working for Noble, mainly to outreach to the ridge top owners. Noble sent me the draft easement agreement, which in total is approximately 20 pages, including the various attachments and memorandums.
Upon my first read of the easement, I felt like I did something wrong in purchasing the property in 2001. The language simply demonetized the tremendous value I place upon my land, to the point in which I also felt that Noble was taking my land and crushing my rights under the Fifth Amendment. The easement language is so convoluted, claw-gripping, one-sided, self-motivating that Noble may have as well taken my land and simply drawn up a new quit-claim deed granting them ownership.
After nearly nine months, countless drafts, the production on my own easement map and accompanying description of the easement area, arm-numbing phone calls, attempts by me and my attorney to modify many sections of the draft easement agreement, only to be told by Mr. Howland, that much of the language cannot be modified, including any of the payment schedules, I eventually signed on June 18, 2007. At least I had the comfort in knowing that the easement area was fairly well-defined and that all landowners would be paid the same amount based upon the evaluation and operating period payment agreement.
Nearly five years to the date of endorsing the easement agreement, I terminated the easement agreement on June 27, 2012, and my relationship with Reunion Power and its director, Mr. Eisenberg, and Mr. Howland. As an easement holder, I was always kept beyond an arm’s length away from receiving any tangible knowledge either by Noble or its successor, Reunion. As of the date I recorded the termination agreement, I still did not know if my property was even a candidate for a turbine or was simply being carved through for access only.
I’m now 38 years of age, pay taxes in three states, hold a mortgage at my primary residence in New Hampshire, my newest vehicle is a 2001 with 237,000 miles on it, have many other monetary commitments on a single income, and yet I could not feel better about my decision to terminate and could care less about the loss of any current and future monetary losses as a result of not participating in this project that is and continues to be marketed with calculated deception, lack of basic due diligence, weak at best responses to legally and lawful questions, disproportional payment agreements being offered to other landowner(s), and this list goes on.
I absolutely had enough being brushed aside. My education, much to Reunion’s displeasure, includes two associate degrees, bachelor’s degree, and a master’s degree in planning, with a concentration in environmental law. I have professionally been working for a large Massachusetts community for 12 years in permit review and prior to that, interned in this profession since I was 22. I have written permits for at least three projects that individually were over $100 million to develop, similar to this project’s projected cost. I never have witnessed such a complete and dysfunctional developmental approach and true disregard to facts, especially when presented with such facts as I presented to Reunion.
In late April 2012, I received an estoppel certificate from Reunion with a cover letter from Mr. Howland requesting my endorsement of this document that basically certifies to a third party, which for example, could be Nordex, the turbine manufacturer, that the easement agreement and all other related attachments and memorandums are still in full force and effect. This document was so carefully worded that I’m sure many easement landowners missed the punch line that attempted to incorporate language that ultimately superseded the actual easement agreement. I read this document nine times, got very upset, and blasted off a three-page letter to Reunion forbidding my endorsement and also notifying them of several defaults. Many other documents have been sent to Reunion.
On July 9, 2012, I sent Reunion a notice of trespassing for their usage of Old Hubbardton Road. One of many examples of ignoring my past legal attempts to demonstrate factual evidence to Reunion. Reunion does not enjoy receiving facts which ultimately result in greater transparency.
If current easement landowners are reading this article, which is only a small view of my frustrations, and are having second thoughts about the project in comparison to its original portrayal, and can live without the potential future, as well as, current monetary gains, tell Reunion it’s time to end the relationship. I know all easement landowners have a “Confidentiality” section within the easement agreement. So what? Your property is the foundation of every right you have, including the right to be free. This is not some top secret government experiment, only partially funded by that entity. Send Reunion a certified mailing indicating that you as an easement landowner will be having the document re-reviewed for constancy and compliance in the comfort of your own home.
I am here to assist. I am not an attorney. I am well-educated in this field and know these documents better than Reunion, and I know the game, or like Mr. Eisenberg refers to it, as a “hobby.” The only hobby I have is working on my land every weekend — just ask my neighbors — and being there for them, not trying to exploit their hard work or the bundle of rights associated with their property ownership.
I have so much to offer to this process but just needed time to reflect upon these experiences and finish numerous other documents of relevant importance. Aside from assisting current easement landowners I would like to take this opportunity to embark on a process that I will be pursuing with all my energy, which can be characterized as plentiful.
I totally understand, respect, support and feel part of such statements on the bumpers of many Vermont vehicles that read, “Vermont Strong,” “Vermont Pride,” and “802.” I come from a strong determined Finnish background, and we too have incorporated such stickers on our bumpers that read “SISU,” just another term for strength and pride. This windmill project proposal, similar to most others approved or in the process of permit development, rip away the very strength and pride that defines Vermont and conversely, cause tremendous friction between landowners, neighbors, relatives and permit granting officials.
One of the major reasons for this type of known detrimental and community relations breakdown is because it is part of the culture that surrounds this type of competitive development. It is in part why New York developed the Wind Energy Code of Conduct Agreement in July of 2009. So please do not be offended when I say, it’s time to release some of the above-mentioned pride and look to our neighboring state of New York and use their already in place agreement to begin the process of developing transparency with this type of large-scale development in our state.
I may not be a true Vermonter, though I am here every weekend and numerous other times during the year. I took steps to show Vermont the pride that I do possess, and the pride that my neighbors have bestowed upon me is a great feeling. Valuable lesson at 38 years old, to recognize money cannot buy true friendships, and I am here to assist in a variety of ways. A phrase that my father always instilled in me when confronted with an overwhelming task or situation: “Everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time just like me.” So never be afraid when the facts are on your side, and I have a lot of facts in my possession.
Derek Saari owns property in Pittsford.