BRATTLEBORO -- A company that wants to build a large-scale commercial solar array is open to holding a public hearing, but all sides are still waiting on the Public Service Board to decide if the hearing will be allowed.
Winstanley Enterprises has filed a petition with the PSB for the 2 megawatt solar energy project on land the company owns off of Technology Drive in north Brattleboro.
Winstanley wants the PSB to approve the permit under the state's 248(j) process, which calls for an expedited decision period, and generally does not allow time for public hearings.
But since the company filed its petition the town, along with the Agency of Natural Resources, the Agency of Agriculture and the Department of Public Service all asked the PSB to allow a public hearing.
All sides are waiting for the PSB to make a decision, but in a letter dated Oct. 28, a Downs Rachlin Martin attorney representing Winstanley said the company would be open to allowing a public hearing, even though Winstanley still wants the petition to be considered under the expedited process.
"While reiterating that this project is appropriate for continued processing under Section 248(j), in light of the expressed desire of the Selectboard for a public hearing, petitioner suggests that the board consider conducting a site visit and public hearing," Downs Rachlin Martin attorney Alison Stone wrote to the PSB. "This could be an efficient way to address any outstanding questions or concerns while still honoring the Legislature's intent that this project as a ‘small renewable energy plant,' be afforded a simplified procedure under Section 248."
Representatives from Winstanley went before the Brattleboro Selectboard on July 2, and while the Selectboard members were largely supportive of the project, they did want to give local residents one more chance to meet with Winstanley to ask questions before construction begins.
Winstanley hopes to put up about 8,300 solar panels on 1,040 posts on the 15-acre parcel along Interstate 91.
If the solar array is completed it would be one of the largest solar energy projects in Vermont.
And if the PSB allows the project to be built under 248(j) it would be the first time a project of that size was allowed under the expedited process.
Chairman David Gartenstein and Planning Director Rod Francis both said it was important for the public to have a say in the permitting process.
Brattleboro Planning Commission Chairman James Valente, in a letter to the PSB, said "The majority of comments received are positive towards the project. Some members of the public expressed the view that the project may enhance the aesthetics of the area through making a strong favorable statement about solar energy. Others raised the issue of possible negative visual impact. Yet others raised questions concerning the possibility of glare emitted by the panels."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.