Letter: Select board must continue solar project opposition
Allco solar company is now in the latest, desperate, phase of its battle in Bennington to protect its financial investment. Having made its initial mistake by buying land in our Rural Conservation Zone, which permits only "limited residential developments,'" it's now trying to ram those projects down our throats.
Allco lost phase one of its battle when the [Public Service Board, now the Public Utilities Commission] denied a certificate of public good for [The Chelsea solar project]. Refusing to take no for an answer, Allco is now appealing that denial at the [Vermont] Supreme Court — phase two.
Not confident it would win at the court, given the planned defense of that PSB decision by the Public Service Department, Allco began phase three; trying to buy off the Bennington Select Board with money in exchange for agreeing not to continue defending our Town Plan in court.
Now we have evidence of phase four; a pretend grassroots canvassing and petition campaign in town, organized and paid for by Allco solar with cooperation from a local Democratic party field organizer, to make it seem that they have local support.
Did canvassers know they were doing the bidding of a multi-million dollar commercial solar company that was fighting against our town plan? Some canvassers may have agreed to do this work because they wanted the $20/hour. Others may have thought it was simply a way of supporting solar energy. Those of us fighting these two projects do support solar energy in the right place.
The flyer states reasons to support solar energy, but ignores that some projects don't belong where developers want them. The flyer states solar power is a good neighbor but never indicates that these two projects would not be good neighbors to the residents living nearest to them, because they involve clear-cutting acres of trees that currently serve as air filters, noise and wind deflectors, and ground water absorbers.
The town will be faced with another battle with Allco; two huge solar projects in a Rural Residential Zone behind the Publyck House, where they also don't belong. Allco knows how to do it right when it wants to; their project for the Industrial Zone behind Northside Drive. But they don't limit themselves to such locations. The town has to stay firm by allowing solar projects only in the 500 + acres identified by the Town Energy Siting Committee.
Allco pretends they don't push their weight around. This is on their website, but their actions show that's a lie.
" We never try to change people's mind about our solar farms, but rather it's our job to provide as much information and facts about our solar farms as possible."
The town won at the PUC with the Chelsea denial; it is likely to win again with a denial of Apple HIll. We should not give in. At least three local members of our state Legislative delegation agree with this stance: Mary Morrissey, Dick Sears, and Brian Campion. Many town residents both living in the the Apple Hill neighborhood and beyond do as well. The select board must join us.
— Lora Block
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