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Cheshire May Appeal Court's Solar Array Decision

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Selectmen will meet with town counsel to discuss the possibility of appealing a Superior Court decision to allow the installation of a solar array on East Harbor Road. 
 
The board heard from some angry residents Tuesday who wanted to know which way the town was leaning regarding appealing the court's decision. The Selectmen agreed they first have to discuss the matter in executive session.
 
"I'm afraid at this point we will not be able to give you an answer because we need to discuss this in executive session first," Selectwoman Carol Francesconi said. "We know as much as you do at this point."
 
Some months ago, after a series of public hearings, the Planning Board denied a resident's request for a special permit to develop a solar array in an agricultural retention zone near the intersection of Wells Road and East Harbor Road. 
 
The landowner appealed the decision in Superior Court and the court reversed the Planning Board's decision but asked that the Planning Board take another look at the permit to consider imposing "reasonable conditions" to mitigate concerns such as glare.
 
Selectman Edmund St. John IV, an attorney, said the Selectmen do have the option to appeal Superior Court's decision but have yet to really study it.
 
"We still have to digest it and we will be meeting with council," he said. "We got the decision yesterday ... we need more information."
 
Residents had concerns over possible health hazards that they felt could come with living next to a solar array. They also said the array would ruin their views and lower their property values.
 
Francesconi said the Planning Board will likely hold another hearing to go over possible conditions they would like to connect to the special permit and they will hold a joint meeting with the Selectmen if deemed necessary.
 
She added that the developer pulled out of their conservation commission hearing and it is unknown if they even still plan to go forward with the project.
Selectman Robert Ciskowski said the selectmen would let the residents know what the town plans to do once they have an answer. 
 
"We are not going to duck and hide and when we know more we will let you know," he said. "We are not going to hide anything but right now we really don't know."
 
In other business, the Selectmen will seek estimates for what it will cost to repair Cheshire School's heating system or to do a more substantial overhaul of the aging system.
 
"I think we need to get going on this because by the time we get a quote and the work is done it is going to be winter," Francesconi said.
 
St. John said he was sure some of the pipes in the system needed to be replaced, however, with the whole system aging, it might be worth it to upgrade the entire system.
 
"Are we just going to replace the line on all three of them or do we just upgrade that system to a more efficient hot water system?" St. John asked. "How many Band-Aids do you put on this thing before fixing it and how expensive are those Band-Aids?"
 
Ciskowski said he was hesitant to replace the entire system when the town has no clear plan for the building yet.
 
Before closing, the Selectmen discussed the Highway Department's fleet and agreed they were in favor of purchasing a pickup truck for the superintendent.
 
"We have been fighting this for 10 years," Francesconi said. "We need a truck for the highway superintendent."
 
The town originally planned to use free cash to purchase a new pickup truck for the superintendent, who currently uses his own vehicle. Highway Superintendent Blair Crane suggested instead using the funds to repair a 2006 plow truck, so the town has another reliable plow truck.
 
The Selectmen were hesitant to invest up to $50,000 in such an old truck.
 
St. John suggested maybe purchasing a cheaper fuel-efficient vehicle for the superintendent, but Town Administrator Mark Webber said the department would get more use out of a truck.
 
"If it was a pickup truck it would be more useful for the Highway Department," Webber said. "It hard to throw a shovel into a Mini Cooper."
 
Ciskowski suggested possibly looking for a used vehicle for the superintendent.
 
The Selectmen will discuss the issue with the Advisory Committee at a future meeting. 

Tags: solar array,   

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