Battle Creek solar project to be scaled back

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BENNINGTON — The developer looking to build a controversial solar facility behind Home Depot intends to file for a scaled-back proposal.

A 4.99-megawatt solar array would be placed on 41 acres of industrial zoned land, according to Brad Wilson of Ecos Energy, and no panels would be placed on land zoned rural residential.

"We think focusing on the industrial area not only incorporates the feedback that we heard from residents, but also is in line with what the town plan has to say about ground-mounted solar," Wilson said during a meeting with residents Wednesday at the Vermont Veterans Home.

But residents said they don't trust tactics used by developer and property owner, Allco Renewable Energy Limited, and don't trust the company when it says it won't put solar panels on 35 acres of forest zoned rural residential.

"You could come back in the next month, next year and go through the process [to develop more solar]," said Rick Carroll.

Residents in attendance called upon the developer to place a deed restriction on the parcels to prohibit solar panels, or place the land in conservation or sell it to abutters.

Dubbed Battle Creek Solar, the project is being proposed by Otter Creek Solar LLC, a subsidiary of Allco Renewable Energy Limited. It's the same company behind the controversial Apple Hill and Chelsea Hill solar projects proposed east of the Route 279 interchange. The latter project had its application for a certificate of public good denied by the Public Service Board in February and the developer has had subsequent motions denied. The Apple Hill project remains pending.

A 45-day notice for Battle Creek in advance of filing for a certificate of public good was mailed last month. Wilson said a new notice would have to be mailed reflecting the changes.

Under the revised plan, the developer will not put solar on some 35 acres of rural residential zoned land. The new proposal concerns 41 acres of industrial zoned land, where 26.25 acres of forest would be cleared to make way for 6-1/2 foot solar panels. The property, once a dairy farm, is located to the east of Carbone Motor Group and Home Depot on Route 67A, and west of the Publyk House and Bennington Project Independence on Route 7A.

Wilson explained he was in town to collect more feedback so the developer can "make a design and project that the town will support." He said the company currently has no plans to develop the rural residential parcels, which have frontage along Rice Lane.

Lora Block, an Apple Hill resident who opposes the solar project near that neighborhood, took issue with tactics the company has used, such as numerous filings with the Public Service Board.

"My feeling is you're trying to bankrupt the towns so they don't have money to fight you on details," she said.

Pamela Corkey of the Harwood Hotel, which abuts the land, said it would be a "gesture of caring and good will" for the developer to put the rural residential land into conservation. Corkey said community members don't trust the company.

The project is slated to go before the Planning Commission on June 6.

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979


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