BENNINGTON — The Vermont Public Utility Commission has deserted a certificate of open good for a argumentative Apple Hill Solar project, similar with opponents of a devise and with a recommendation from a conference officer, Michael Tousley.
“The findings, conclusions and recommendations of a conference officer are adopted,” a elect wrote in a preference posted May 7.
Opponents in a Apple Hill area easterly of Route 7A and other residents were gratified with a preference though heedful of serve appeals from a developer, Allco Renewable Resources, Ltd.
They pronounced they also wish a PUC statute will likewise impact another 2-megawatt Allco Renewable project, called Chelsea Solar, that is designed for a parcel adjacent to a Apple Hill Solar site.
Tousley had dynamic in Jan that a Apple Hill devise “would unduly meddle with a nurse growth of a region, with due care carrying been given to a recommendations of a metropolitan and informal formulation commissioners and a land charge measures contained in a devise of a influenced municipality [Bennington].”
In addition, Tousley’s recommendation suggested a elect to interpretation that a devise “would have an undue inauspicious outcome on a aesthetics and on a scenic or healthy beauty of a area.”
Those were dual of a categorical arguments articulated by opponents of both solar projects, given that a sites are in a city Rural Conservation District, that seeks to minimize growth and safety healthy areas, and that a bank is distinguished in a scenic farming environment and manifest to both residents and visitors from a state Welcome Center and a Bennington Battle Monument.
“We are really pleased,” pronounced Brooke Dingledine, of VDM Law, of Barre, who has represented area opponents of a project. “We’re gratified that a PUC has finally sorted this out.”
She referred to arguments that a devise is not unchanging with a city devise in terms of what should be authorised in a Rural Conservation District and would be “in a rarely manifest plcae on a hillside,” inspiring a perspective deliberate critical to a internal tourism industry.
Dingledine pronounced a statute “is an glorious decision,” that balances a discipline of a village with a rights of a applicant.
However, a profession remarkable that a PUC preference is not final until a finish of a 30-day interest period, and she believes an interest is likely.
In fact, Thomas Melone, boss and comparison warn of Allco Renewable, pronounced in an email Monday, “We do devise to interest and/or find reconsideration.”
“I’m really gratified a PUC adopted a offer for preference of their conference officer to repudiate capitulation of a Apple Hill Solar project,” pronounced Lora Block, a proprietor of a Apple Hill area. “This is an essential step in safeguarding a area and a manifest beauty of Bennington.”
She added, “As an intervenor, along with Libby Harris, we feel totally irreproachable that we kept adult this quarrel for 5 years opposite a Apple Hill and adjacent Chelsea Solar projects.”
Currently, a 2-megawatt Chelsea devise is before a Supreme Court on appeal, essentially to solve a doubt of either a adjacent projects are in fact a singular 4-megawatt devise in total, that would place a trickery good above a state’s distance extent of 2.2 megawatts. That interest by a developer, from a PUC preference in 2019, does not concentration on a issues in a Apple Hill box recently before a commission.
Dingledine pronounced Monday she believes that a PUC’s Apple Hill preference per a city devise and aesthetics of a scenic area should also invalidate a same-sized Chelsea project. She hopes, however, that a opponents can equivocate “repeating a whole process,” initial before a PUC and after before a Supreme Court, afterwards behind again, with any of a projects.
“The Public Utility Commission released a well-reasoned preference denying Apple Hill Solar,” pronounced Annette Smith, executive executive of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, that has monitored a needing routine for solar projects around a state.
She pronounced a PUC “correctly found that a Apple Hill Solar project, due to be located on a prominently manifest bank in a Rural Conservation District, violates a Town Plan. The PUC also found that a cultured impact would be unduly adverse, and remarkable a prominence from a Mount Anthony Country Club, a Bennington Battle Monument, and a Welcome Center.”
Smith added, “The messenger project, creatively Bennington Solar, afterwards Chelsea Solar, now Willow Road Solar, awaits a preference by a Vermont Supreme Court, that might remand it behind to a PUC, as was a box with Apple Hill Solar, to cruise a city devise .”
Proposed in 2015
The five-year needing conflict surrounding a Apple Hill devise has continued given 2015. During that time, a devise has been revised by a developer with a smaller definite footprint on a Apple Hill site; won capitulation from a PUC; had that capitulation subsequently appealed to a state Supreme Court, and had a justice in Sep 2018 remand a petition behind to a elect for reconsideration of several points of contention. The justice had found error with an progressing PUC preference extenuation a assent for Apple Hill.
The justice final tumble called for examination of several sum of a decision. That stirred a conference officer’s examination and his recommendation in Jan to repudiate a permit.
“This preference means a PUC has famous a significance of a arguments and also inspected a Town Plan,” Block pronounced Monday.
“The preference protects a aesthetics of a Bennington area and ensures a nurse growth of a region,” she said. “The detailed justification we entered was crucial. The devise violates a 2010 Bennington Town Plan’s transparent created village standards, that are dictated to safety a aesthetics or scenic healthy beauty of a area and to beam a nurse growth of a region.”
The devise would be “a manifest blurb discolouration of a distinguished bank that would be seen from many vantage points,” Block said. “The matter by a PUC was that `the black box will hang out like a bruise thumb,’ since a developer claimed that sheathing a fringe blockade with dim filigree screening element would somehow deception it.”
Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including a Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. Twitter: @BB_therrien