Pittsfield ZBA rejects solar array near Onota Lake


PITTSFIELD >> The Zoning Board of Appeals has rejected a special permit for a 2.6-megawatt solar power facility off Churchill Street that had prompted opposition from neighbors.

Landowner Todd Driscoll and Aegis Renewable Energy, of Waitsfield, Vt., proposed a solar array on about 10 acres of 61-acre parcel on the east side of Churchill Street south of the Dan Casey causeway over Onota Lake.

The ZBA voted 3-2, with Chairman Albert Ingegni III, John Fitzgerald and Miriam Maduro against, and Esther Bolen and Thomas Goggins in favor. A special permit would have required at least 4 votes in favor for approval.

Ingegni said after the meeting that the consensus of those opposed to the plan was that it would have changed the character of a neighborhood in a residential zone. While the developers had proposed the solar facility under a provision allowing quasipublic utilities, that would not be a by-right use in the zone, he said, and therefore allowed only with a special permit.

James Scalise and Robert Fournier, of SK Design Group, representing the landowner and the developer, had described the project and the planned use of natural and fence screening they said would shield nearly all of the array from neighboring properties.

He said Wednesday that the plans had been revised further based on the comments received in an effort to improve screening.

However, Ralph Cianflone, who lives across the street from the parcel, objected to what he described as a major change to the neighborhood homeowners had settled in over the years, believing the area would remain residential in nature. And he was critical of a change in the zoning regulations that allowed the possibility of a quasipublic facility in a residential zone.

On Wednesday, Cianflone reiterated his concerns, including over a feared decline in the value of his Churchill Street property and of his neighbors' parcels. He said the ZBA is charged to "protect the health, welfare and safety of the public," and should reject the project because approval "would destroy the sanctity of the zoning bylaw."

Cianflone and other opponents had said the solar project should be moved to a former GE site or other location in the city, away from a scenic rural neighborhood.

Robert Collins, owner of the abutting Blythewood Stables property, from which the project site had been subdivided, had urged approval of the project at a prior meeting, citing its beneficial effect on the environment.

Power generated by the array would have been fed into the Eversource power grid. Scalise said the developer had an agreement for sale of the electricity generated, with the power to be added to the grid along Churchill Street lines.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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