Cornwall makes its solar rules permanent

CORNWALL — The Cornwall selectboard wants to make permanent an interim solar screening bylaw the board instituted more than three years ago in response to a specific solar array that had been proposed off West Street.
That interim bylaw, originally approved back in 2015, recently expired. The Cornwall Planning Commission has been busy making major revisions to the town’s zoning bylaw and subdivision regulations, and has thus been unable to devote much time to the solar screening rules. So the selectboard on Jan. 4 voted to make permanent the interim solar bylaw, knowing the planning commission could revisit the bylaw during the coming months and propose changes.
The bylaw will become permanent on March 5, unless any local resident files a citizens petition protesting the rules.
The solar screening bylaw mandates, among other things, that solar projects pitched in Cornwall must:
•  Be designed and made of “materials, colors and textures that blend into the surrounding natural or built environment to the maximum extent feasible.”
•  Incorporate screening that breaks up the visible area of the project so as to prevent unobstructed views of the project, and mitigates adverse aesthetic impacts on views from residences and public highways.
•  Incorporate sufficient screening to ensure the visible area of the project represents no more than 5-percent of the field of view from any of the following: Any point within a residence, any point within 150 feet of a residence, or any point on a public highway.
•  Ensure that plantings for screening purposes are of sufficient height, density and maturity to achieve the screening standard within three years of planting.
A complete version of Cornwall’s solar screening bylaw can be found at tinyurl.com/ya65m48a.
Selectboard Chairman Benjamin Marks said the interim bylaw has proved very effective during its three-year run, and two projects have been approved and built in town during that period.
The proposed West Street solar farm that triggered Cornwall’s interim screening bylaw was ultimately never built by SunCommon, according to Marks.
The Vermont Public Utilities Commission has permitting authority over renewable energy proposals in the state. While town officials and neighbors can provide feedback to the PUC on specific solar, wind and hydro projects, such proposals do not have to undergo local permitting review. But the PUC does review pertinent town bylaws when considering renewable energy applications.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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