TOWN OF RUTLAND
Board members present: Steve Hawley, Don Chioffi, Mary Ashcroft and John Paul Faignant
The meeting opened at 5:03 P.M.
Mr. Hawley said the purpose of the meeting is to finalize the Solar Facility Siting Standards (SFSS). Ms. Ashcroft announced that she has an amendment to offer for the SFSS.
Mr. Chioffi told Mr.Hawley that something has to be done regarding items left on his desk being taken.
Ms. Ashcroft said that as a result of the PSB site visit she attended at the groSolar location on Cold River Road she realized the proposed field would be very visible to individuals living near the site. Ms. Ashcroft said she added language to Section C on page 8. Ms. Ashcroft said she tried not write an amendment that would deal only with one specific project.
Ms. Ashcroft said she has cited conifer trees verses deciduous trees for proposed screening for the neighbors. Ms. Ashcroft said that under her proposed amendment no more then 20% of the solar arrays would be visible from any part of a residence or its surrounding half acre.
Ms. Ashcroft said the goal is to break up the view when you are passing bye and the goal is to block the view for individuals living near a solar site. Ms. Ashcroft said the planting are to be on the project lands and not on adjacent land. Ms. Ashcroft cited the fact that item (F) states that clear cutting should be avoided. Ms. Ashcroft said the proposed changes are intended to address what she saw at the site. Ms. Ashcroft said A thru E on page should be deleted and replaced by her amendment.
Mr. Chioffi apologized for his physical appearance. He explained he had been painting and asked those present to accept his appearance. Mr. Chioffi said Ms. Ashcroft did an excellent job incorporating her observation from the site visit and the comments, which were made at the site visit.
Mr.Chioffi cited his reasons for supporting the proposed language. Mr. Chioffi said his goals have always been to:
protect the residential nature of the Town
protect the agricultural nature of the Town
Mr. Chioffi said he would never vote for a solar project proposed for agricultural soils. Mr. Chioffi said there are many good places in the State for solar projects to be located. He cited brownfields, sand pits and old gravel pits. He said to date all proposals in Town have been for residential neighborhoods.
Mr. Chioffi said at first he was a proponent of getting the document done as soon as possible. He said the Board has put together a proficient, intelligent thoughtful job on the total document.
He said strategy wise the Board would be better off to wait until the case that is before us is judicated by the PSB, because that will give the Board a feeling as to what the PSB thinks about the Town's original document.
Town resident Mr. David Fucci told Ms. Ashcroft he understands she is trying to protect the neighbors however he said the Board should hold off adopting the SFSS until after PSB hears the groSolar application.
Mr. Fucci said the PSB would review the solar proposal with the solar document, which was adopted previously by the Board. He suggested the Board may be putting the cart in front of the horse. Mr. Fucci said the document before the PSB is not much different than the proposed amendment.
Mr. Fucci said the proposed 60 foot set back would be painting everyone with the same brush. He referenced the new project proposed for the Cold River Road and said it will be in everyone's front yard with only a 60 foot set back. Mr. Fucci cited the fact that the current standards require a 200 foot set back.
Mr. Fucci said with the elevated scale a half Mega watt facility would be screened differently that a 12 or 13 Mega watt solar farm. Mr. Fucci said on behalf of all the neighbors he requested the Board not adopt the proposed SFSS Town Plan amendment.
Ms. Ashcroft said the Board has to be concerned with other projects which at any time could apply to the PSB. Mr. Fucci said what the Board had in place previously gave the neighbors protection.
Town resident Ms. Lee Hadley told the Board that her home is in the middle of the two proposed Cold River Road solar farms. Ms. Hadley said she is selling her home because she does not want to be there.
Ms. Hadley told the Board that many people have been trespassing on her land I connection with the two proposals. Ms. Ashcroft said the Board is trying to find the right thing to do and has been working on the problem.
Mr. Chioffi cited the fact that Board member Mr. John Paul Faignant made the statement, back when the Knappmiller solar proposal was made, that the Board should be thinking long-term. Mr. Chioffi said that is when the Town first began working on the SFSS.
Mr. Chioffi cited the fact that the PSB does not have to listen to what the Town has adopted. However, he said the Board has to make its best effort to get some clearly defined standards, which are reasonable community standards. Mr. Chioffi said the Board is with the Cold River Road residents and that the Board believes residential area are not good for solar.
Mr. Chioffi made a motion to adopt the landscaping and screening for page 8 as prepared by Ms. Ashcroft. He said the amendment would be substituted for landscaping & screening, thru section E. Ms. Ashcroft made a second to the motion. The motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Faignant asked Mr. Zingale if he knows where the power from the proposed solar field would be sold. Mr. Zingale said according to the groSolar PSB application they plan to connect to the Green Mountain Power substation on the Cold River Road. Mr. Zingale said once on the grid the power could be sold anywhere.
Town resident Mr. Ted Hubbard Sr. cited the fact that the new solar farm proposed for the Cold River Road would result in a clear cut of all the trees on the lot. Mr. Hubbard questioned why have the language if the PSB does not have to do what the Board wants. Mr. Hawley told Mr. Hubbard that the new language gives the Town a position, which the PSB would consider.
Board members and those in attendance discussed how to achieve legislative support for placing restrictions on solar farms and giving Town's meaningful input into PSB solar applications.
Ms. Ashcroft said this is a classic debate between green energy and green environmentalist. Ms. Ashcroft said the residents might be heard if they go to Montpelier. Ms. Ashcroft said if the group present went to Montpelier and attended several committee meeting, she said it would make an impression on the Legislators.
Town resident, Mr. Jeff Leonard, told the Board that the solar farm off 103 is ugly, awful and is pillaging the environment. Mr. Leonard said solar development is out of control. Mr. Leonard said the Town is not large enough to have solar farms everywhere.
Mr. Leonard told the Board that he has received over 50 comments regarding his posting of the 103 project on Facebook. Mr. Leonard said the ration was 9 to 1 against the solar field. Mr. Leonard said he hopes the Town can stop the proposed Cold River Road solar farm.
Mr. Chioffi cited the fact that not a single democratic legislator in the Vermont Legislature supported a bill to give Towns more say in PSB proceedings. Mr. Chioffi said without State subsidies solar power would not be profitable.
Ms. Ashcroft encouraged those in the room to start talking about solar now in the upcoming elections. She suggested individuals look at the Secretary of State's Web page to find elected officials and for who is running for office.
Attorney Allen George, who is representing several Cold River Road homeowners, regarding the proposed groSolar energy project told the Board that the Quechee Lakes Environmental Board decision will have bearing in the proposed groSolar energy projects.
Mr. George told those present that he has a highly regarded expert witness who is the number one esthetics expert in the State of Vermont. He said his witness has worked for the the Department of Public Service in every case before the PSB prior to the Cold River Road proposal.
Mr. George said the Town's original adopted solar standards are a clear written community standard for the subjects of; siting, esthetics and natural beauty. He said his witness will testify that the proposed solar farm would have an undue adverse affect on aesthetics, scenic beauty and natural beauty.
Mr. George said the Public Service Department's expert has written a very poor report in terms of quality. Mr. George said the PSB must also consider the societal benefits the project would have.
Ms. Ashcroft moved to adopt the amended and completed Solar facility Siting Standards as last amended today and to set for public hearing. Mr. Faignant made a second to the motion. The motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Hawley declared the meeting closed at 5:58 P.M.