Addison to launch solar siting rules

ADDISON — Interim regulations governing the siting and screening of solar arrays in Addison will take effect during the first full week of September.
The Addison selectboard adopted the regulations on July 5, with a 60-day lag before they became law.
Planning commission chairman Frank Galgano said last week the selectboard wanted to get something in place to guide potential applicants while planners are working on a new Addison Town Plan.
That new plan, for which planners have scheduled a Sept. 12 public hearing at 6:30 p.m. at Addison Central School, will include a new and more detailed section on solar siting. The current plan does not address the issue of where solar arrays can be cited and how big they can be, which has become controversial in some towns around the town and Vermont.
Once the new plan is adopted, hopefully by the end of the year, Galgano said planners can write permanent new zoning laws based on the town plan, laws that might have more teeth with the plan behind them.
In the meantime, Addison will rely on an interim solar law that is essentially borrowed from the town of Cornwall, with “Addison” substituted in as necessary.
Planning commission member Charles Kelly said the Cornwall law was recommended by town attorney Adam Powers as more comprehensive than two other options than Addison was considering. Planners presented all three choices to selectboard members on July 5, and they chose the Cornwall option.
With one 500-kilowatt array proposal already causing some controversy in Addison, Kelly said town officials believed it was important to put guidelines in place even before the town plan process could be completed.
“We felt we needed to get something on the books,” Kelly said.
The interim law states that it is “intended to be no more restrictive of ground-mounted solar electricity generation plants than the screening regulations governing new commercial development.”
It also acknowledges that Addison will require, as the planning commission has undertaken, a “careful re-writing of sections of the town plan and study of Addison’s role in the state’s development of ground-mounted photo-voltaic.”
The interim regs require projects to:
•  Be designed and constructed to “blend into the surrounding” area “to the maximum extent feasible.”
•  Use screening to “prevent unobstructed views,” mitigate “adverse aesthetic impacts” and “harmonizes” the project with the character of its area.
•  Have limited views from surrounding homes and roads.
•  Have “sufficient” and “year-round” screening that makes use of natural vegetation as much as possible.
•  Be sited careful to minimize aesthetic impact.
The law also establishes setbacks from roads and property boundaries, establishes responsibilities for array maintenance and decommissioning, and insists “the screening requirements of the Interim Ordinance and the recommendations shall be a condition of a Certificate of Public Good” from the Vermont Public Service Board. 

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