Ferrisburgh seeks more control over solar arrays

FERRISBURGH — The Ferrisburgh selectboard at its April 7 meeting passed a resolution, one that has circulated among a number of Vermont communities, asking state legislators to amend laws to give towns more say in the siting of renewable energy projects during Public Service Board proceedings.
The resolution states that in PSB Certificate of Public Good (CPG) reviews, the PSB’s “legal analysis” allowed the board to “disregard and/or avoid the policies and standards of the very municipality in which the renewable energy project is to be located. By focusing on regional impacts, to the exclusion of local municipal impacts, the PSB routinely ignores the input and evidence offered by Vermont municipalities.”
The siting of solar arrays has become an issue around Vermont, especially in Addison County. New Haven, in particular, hosts a disproportionate number of arrays, and neighbors of a Ferrisburgh array installed by the Basin Harbor Club are upset both with its appearance and with the PSB process.
Those neighbors have appealed the array both to the PSB and to the Vermont Supreme Court. Notably, they are challenging the PSB’s legal holding that immediate neighbors of a solar array cannot be considered “average citizens” when the board rules on whether renewable energy projects can be considered offensive or aesthetically unpleasing in an area.
In a Thursday interview, Ferrisburgh selectboard chairman Steve Gutowski said his board is “not anti-solar,” but said “There are a number of things to consider,” including the lack of “local input” in the existing process.
Gutowski said he believes there is plenty of land for arrays in areas that would not adversely impact neighborhoods and views.
The vote last week was 4-1 in favor of the resolution, with Gutowski, Jim Benoit, Red Muir and Jim Warden in favor. Loretta Lawrence voted against. The board, with Lawrence as chairwoman, had declined to take a position on the Basin Harbor array in 2014.
The resolution to which Ferrisburgh signed on last week asks “state representatives and senators to develop amendments to the statutes that concern the siting and approval of renewable energy projects and to the procedures of the PSB in order to ensure that Vermont municipalities have a more meaningful role in the (Certificate of Public Good) process and to require compliance with appropriately developed municipal siting standards.”

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