Richville Road Solar Site Field

A proposed site for a solar installation located on Richville Road in Manchester.

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MANCHESTER — The Public Utility Commission has denied an application by MHG Solar LLC to build a 500-kilowatt solar array on Richville Road .

The decision by the PUC follows the recommendation of Jake Marren, the hearing officer for the application, in which he concludes that the project would have an undue, adverse effect on aesthetics.

“It is hereby ordered, adjudged and decreed by the Public Utility Commission of the State of Vermont that: The findings, conclusions, and recommendations of the Hearing Officer are adopted … [and] the application ... is denied,” the decision states.

The solar developer has 30 days to ask for a reconsideration of the decision. The decision also can be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Although they know it might not be over, the neighbors, who have made up the majority of a group opposing the proposed solar generation site, are celebrating this small victory.

Dom Penge, who has been one of the more outspoken members of the neighborhood opposition, said word has been spreading slowly since the decision was announced Friday.

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“We’ve been spreading the news, and people are pretty thrilled,” Penge said.

He said it is important that people know that most of the opposition had nothing to do with it being a proposed solar installation but rather where they wanted to put it.

He said that most of the opposition was made up of people who support solar, but said it has to be done in an environmentally and socially appropriate way.

“What they were going to do was cause more harm to the homes and that piece of property,” Penge said. “There were people who were involved who said they were all for solar and would have them on their home, but this needs to be done in a responsible way. We’re happy this didn’t go through. But we’d be happy to help them find another location.”

Much of the discussion for the decision focused on the project’s potential aesthetic effects and the impact on the viewshed of Mount Equinox as one of the focal points.

In its discussion of its decision the PUC wrote that “the Project’s effect on views of Mount Equinox is one of the factors the Hearing Officer appropriately considered when assessing the Project’s aesthetic impact. To be clear, the Commission is not making a finding that the Project is inconsistent with any provision of the local or regional plans. The Commission also emphasizes that siting a facility in the foreground of a scenic view by itself does not automatically render the facility’s aesthetic impact unduly adverse. … The Commission finds that the Project site has particular scenic value and that the Project’s location in the foreground of a scenic view is a factor that weighs against the Project.”

Contact Darren Marcy at dmarcy@manchesterjournal.com.


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