By Carol Casey
John Abele, the principal of the Meach Cove Trust and its affiliate Limerick Road Solar, appeared before the Planning Commission at its meeting on Jan. 24 to explain the plans for developing a 15-acre solar farm in a field bounded by Bostwick and Limerick Roads next to the VELCO transmission line. As planned, the farm will produce more than two million kilowatts annually for 25 years. It is being developed under the SPEED– Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development–law which calls for the state to meet 20 percent of its energy needs from renewable energy sources by 2017. Abele, a solar energy consultant, and an environmental lawyer, took turns explaining their proposal to give the Planning Commission “a heads up” before an application for a certificate of public good is filed with the Public Service Board (PSB). Once the application is filed, the town will have at least 45 days to comment officially to the PSB regarding the project’s impact on the town. The trio stressed that because of the contours of the landscape, the solar farm will hardly be visible. No additional municipal services will be required for the construction or operation of the farm. No soil will be removed; no endangered species will be displaced; and the class three wetlands on the property will be protected by maintaining a buffer zone. The project will be surrounded by a six-foot fence. Once the project is approved by the PSB, Limerick Road Solar intends to begin the three month construction phase, ideally in late July or August of this year. The Planning Commission members generally reacted favorably to the proposal, with Commissioner Ron Bouchard commenting that he’s “excited that Shelburne has the opportunity to be part of the state’s move to sustainable energy.”
The Planning Commission next decided to warn a public hearing on March 28 on the revisions it has made to the Town Plan.
Town Planner Dean Pierce reported that the Selectboard decided to incorporate $15,000 in funding for the “Vision for 7” project into the town budget which will be voted upon at Town Meeting. He also noted that the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission is likely to make a decision on the grant funding for the project later this month.
At its next meeting on Feb. 14, the Planning Commission will consider changing the boundaries of the Sewer Service area. The agenda for its subsequent meeting on Feb.28 is likely to include the Automaster request to allow for display areas within the front yard setback and a presentation by the Regional Planning Commission on its regional plan. These meetings will take place at 7 pm in the Municipal Center.