Board supports solar project, rejects another

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BENNINGTON — The Select Board this week voted to support one of two solar energy projects proposed by a New York developer, while rejecting support another.

Members voted unanimously on Monday to support the Battle Creek I project, which is before state energy regulators, with conditions. But they voted unanimously against Chelsea solar, a controversial project that came before the town again, this time in a revised form with a smaller footprint.

Both ground-mounted solar installations are being proposed by subsidiaries of Allco Renewable Energy.

Select Board Vice-Chairman Donald Campbell, speaking about Chelsea during Monday's deliberative session, said, "It doesn't fit with our town plan language and we've already been down this road."

Planning commissioners were "very clear," said Assistant Town Manager Dan Monks, that Chelsea solar did not fit language in the town plan, which says only solar arrays located within preferred areas can exceed 10 acres.

An ordinance passed in November 2015 allows the board to make screening recommendations to the state Public Utilities Council, the quasi-judicial quasi-judicial state entity that regulates electricity generating projects. Members can also ask the Planning Commission for recommendations; that body met prior to Monday's Select Board meeting.

Monks said that commissioners recommended a knotted fence, versus a chain-link fence, and a native plant be substituted for Battle Creek's screening plan. They also recommended members request the PUC require the developer to seek an amendment before any vegetation is cut on the parcel's east side.

Battle Creek solar is a 2.2 megawatt project on a 40.6 acre parcel behind the Home Depot and Carbone Auto Dealership on North Bennington Road (Route 67A) and adjacent to Rice Lane. Chelsea solar is a 2.0 megawatt project on 27.3 acres east of the Route 7/279 interchange.

Allco had previously proposed both Chelsea and Apple Hill as adjacent projects. The PUC denied Chelsea a certificate of public good in 2016. An appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court was later dropped.

Battle Creek I still needs a certificate of public good from PUC. A site visit is scheduled for Dec. 4.

A 45-day notice for the revised Chelsea project ended on Sunday.

Members accepted the commission's recommendations relating to Battle Creek and voted to support the project, conditional to additional information on glare impact and that there would be no unnecessary impact on wildlife.

A motion by Jim Carroll to reject support to Chelsea was unanimously approved.

Chairman Tom Jacobs recused himself from the deliberative session.

Ed Damon can be reached at edamon@benningtonbanner.com, at @edamon_banner on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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