Solar developer comes back with new plan for Churchill Street parcel in Pittsfield
PITTSFIELD — A solar facility proposed for a parcel off Churchill Street but rejected in April for a special permit will go back before city boards with a revised format that includes housing lots along the streetfront.
Landowner Todd Driscoll and Aegis Renewable Energy, of Waitsfield, Vt., had proposed a 2.6-megawatt solar array on about 10 acres of a 61-acre parcel on the east side of Churchill Street, south of the Dan Casey causeway over Onota Lake.
However, after staunch opposition from residents in the area, that proposal was rejected for a special permit last month by the Zoning Board of Appeals.
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 for the solar generating would have required at least 4 votes in favor for approval.
According to a revised plan filed with the city Community Development office by SK Design Group Inc., the developer now proposes a 1.82-megawatt solar array on 5.7 acres of the 61-acre parcel.
The new plan shows eight home lots along Churchill Street, facing the neighbors who had registered complaints about what they deemed negative visual and other impacts on the residentially zoned area.
Such a project is allowed in a residential zone but must receive a special permit. Prior to voting on the permit request, ZBA members who voted against it indicated they viewed the project as changing the character of a neighborhood in a residential zone — echoing a complaint registered by area residents.
The Conservation Commission on Wednesday was asked to consider the new project design, which shows a reduced area of impact on wetlands buffer zones on the parcel and the smaller solar facility.
With the changes, the edge of the solar array enclosure also would be set from 300 to 400 back from Churchill Street, behind the eight home lots.
A subdivision approval is not required in the area to create the home lots for sale.
Robert Fournier, of SK Design Group, requested that the new plan be substituted for the former plan without the commission requiring a new hearing and review of the approved conditions for work in wetlands buffer zones.
He said the overall project site is reduced, along with impacts on buffer zones, and there are now no stormwater drainage impacts on buffer zones.
However, the commission voted to hold a new hearing in June to consider a proposal from the developer to amend the prior order of work conditions. Members cited what they termed significant changes in the plan and a desire for transparency by allowing the public another chance to comment.
Power generated by the array would have been fed into the Eversource power grid. James Scalise, of SK Design Group, said previously the developer had an agreement for sale of the electricity generated, with the power to be added to the grid along Churchill Street lines.
The Community Development Board is expected to review the new site plan on June 7, with the ZBA to meet on a special permit request on June 8.
Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.
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