Two Pittsfield solar projects win site plan OK; special permits also required


PITTSFIELD — Two solar power generating facilities proposed for Pittsfield sites won unanimous site plan approval Tuesday from the city Community Development Board.

Aegis Renewable Energy, of Waitsfield, Vt., submitted both plans. They include a 1.9-megawatt solar array on 5.7 acres of a 27.5-acre parcel off 220 Cloverdale St., owned by Peter Marzolini, and a revised, smaller solar plan for a 61-acre site off Churchill, where a larger solar array was rejected in April for a special permit by the Zoning Board of Appeals after staunch opposition from neighbors.

Both proposals reviewed Tuesday also will need special permit approval from the ZBA.

The new Churchill Street plan, which will go back to the ZBA on Wednesday for a special permit, now proposes a 1.82-megawatt solar array on 5.7 acres of the 61-acre parcel. The rejected proposal called for a 2.6-megawatt facility covering 10 acres of the parcel, which is owned by Todd Driscoll.

Neighbors objected to an industrial scale facility across Churchill Street from their properties, which they said would be visible despite plans for natural and other screening.

The Community Development Board also had approved the earlier plan, but the ZBA voted 3-2 in April against a required special permit for a quasi-public utility in a residential zone. Approval would have required at least four votes in favor.

The ZBA meets on the new Churchill Street plan at 7 p.m. in City Hall.

James Scalise, of SK Design Group Inc., and attorney Michael MacDonald, representing the property owners, described both projects before the board.

The solar panels would be mounted on meadow sites on a single pole each. They would be about 11 feet wide and less than 10 feet high, with about 15 feet between them.

The power generated would be sold to the utility, Eversource, and distributed over existing lines. Each array site would have a fence around it and a gravel access road, but no lighting, water or sewer services would be required.

In answer to concerns voiced by Churchill Street neighbors, Scalise said eight home lots would be created along Churchill Street and sold over time, effectively pushing the solar array back 300 to 400 feet from the street.

He said other vegetation and berm screening also would be added and improved, and the impacts on wetlands buffer zones and the need for stormwater runoff protections would be reduced with the smaller array site.

The entire Churchill Street project is 25 to 30 percent smaller than the initial proposal, he said, representing "a substantial change."

He said the project also now is being created as a designated Community Shared Solar facility, which means owners of the eight home lots, as well as other Eversource customers, could purchase energy credits at a discount to reduce their electricity bill.

The Cloverdale Street site for the array is naturally sloping to the south and will not require regrading, he said, and it is mostly meadow. Scalise said the facility could be constructed in four to five months.

Cloverdale Street runs between West Housatonic Street (Route 20) and Barker Road. The Marzolini parcel is midway between the two roads.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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