To the Editor of THE EAGLE:
Recently there has been public discussion concerning a proposal to place solar arrays on the capped landfill at Willow Creek Road in Lenox. Solar panels would benefit the town and, since they would represent a reduction in the generation of greenhouse gases, would also benefit the global community and the environment. There are wetlands involved, but they may be small, isolated wetlands that do not come under the jurisdiction of the Wetlands Protection Act (WPA) and will likely not stand in the way of construction of the arrays. In any case, there doesn’t seem to be any environmental reason for stopping this project.
In some recent discussions that I have heard, and in a recent letter to the editor in The Eagle, there seems to be a misunderstanding of the role being played by the Lenox Conservation Commission. It is true that the applicant is currently in a bind, needing to show that work has been started by the end of December in order to secure funding for the project. In fact, as a result of this time constraint, the project is currently in jeopardy. However, the public discussion around this issue mischaracterizes the current role of the Conservation Commission in administering the WPA.
Since the applicant, Broadway Electric, first applied for a permit in October, the commissioners have been quite clear in pointing out inside and outside public meetings that the application submitted for the permit is incomplete and additional information is required. The information being asked for is the same required by the commonwealth of any applicant seeking a permit from a Conservation Commission. The commissioners have not said anything negative about the project. They have said only that the application is incomplete.
Instead of providing the requested information, the applicant has taken every opportunity to explain why he feels that he should not have to provide the details that would complete the application. This is confusing because the project seems to be a beneficial one, and nobody has raised any issues that should prevent a permit from being issued. This is a project we would all love to support. However, the Conservation Commission is not able to even comment on the merits of the project until there is a proper permit application before them. This is what they have been saying clearly since October.
After months of resisting requests for a completed application, the applicant is now arguing that the Conservation Commission should issue the permit, still without the completed application, or be responsible for the project’s failure. But this unfortunate situation is not the fault of the Conservation Commission. If the project is delayed, the blame can fall only on the applicant, who waited until October to submit an application, argued with, rather than listened to the Conservation Commission, and still refuses to complete the application.
It’s unfortunate that such a worthy project may fail because of missteps by the applicant, but let’s not blame the Conservation Commission or sacrifice legal process just because this is a project we like. We’ve all been on the wrong side of that kind of process before.
The author is a member of the Berkshire Environmental Action Team.