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The 1.9 megawatt solar array is eyed to be installed on a 73-acre parcel next to Winesap Road.

Pittsfield Approves East Street Solar Array; Soldier On Plans Expansion

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Zoning Board of Appeals gave the green light for BVD Solar to build a commercial photovoltaic array on outer East Street.
 
The company is planning to us about 20 acres of a 73-acre parcel near Winesap Road. More than 11 acres of vegetation will have to be cut and the array will generate 1.9 megawatts of electricity.
 
"We are trying to minimize the impacts ut there is a fair amount of clearing," said engineer James Scalise, of SK Design.
 
It is just another in a handful of solar arrays the company has recently sought or is currently constructing. Scalise said there will be at least 100 feet between the arrays and the homes, and the company is taking extra screening precautions to minimize the visual impact. The entire array will be enclosed by an 8-foot fence, screening material, and the planting of vegetation.
 
Despite those precautions, resident Kyle Burks expressed some qualms about it. He said while BVD is intending to limit the view from the ground, his deck sits some 15-feet off the ground.
 
"I can see a lot of that property my from deck," he said.
 
Scalise said there is little that can be done to screen the array that angle. He said he's limited to 15-foot trees so the panels have enough sunlight.
 
"If you shade a portion of the panels, it shuts the whole system down," he said.
 
The Zoning Board of Appeals said they'll be keeping an eye on the project to make sure there are no negative impacts. That was the same tone the Community Development Board took on the project last week, asking for a follow up in the future.
 
In other business, Soldier On is looking to build a new, two-story housing building for homeless woman veterans. The non-profit is looking to demolish a home at 402 West Housatonic Street, next to the current Gordon Mansfield Veterans Community, and build the new structure.
 
"It is a continuation of our housing model here in Pittsfield," Scalise, who also serves at Soldier On's director of development, said. "It provides formerly homeless veterans with safe, affordable housing."
 
Scalise said while the building will have multiple units, the structure will have the exterior appearance of a home. The entire building will be about 8,850 square feet but fitting on the same footprint of the existing house.
 
"It is a structure that looks like a home, albeit a larger building," he said, and later adding, "it is a project that is very cohesive with the neighborhood, it is in scale,"
 
Scalise said the single-family home currently there cannot be saved. It had been damaged by a broken water pipe.
 
The building will include the 14 units, which will be owned by the veterans in a cooperative fashion, a laundry room, and common areas.
 
The project is still a year off and the Zoning Board of Appeals wants to take a site visit. Scalise said Soldier On is submitting an application to the state to receive funding for the project, but won't know if it gets approved until next summer.
 
"We're laying out a pre-qualification package that went into Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development for pre-funding. We expect to submit a full application in December," Scalise said. 
 
The earlier construction would be expected would be next fall.
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