Thursday May 02, 2013
At Monday night’s special Council meeting, Attorney Joe McLean and Director of Planning and Zoning Paul Conner gave a recap of the Council’s action so far regarding the Claire Solar project. The Council has discussed the project at two meetings. The project itself consists of a proposed 2.2 megawatt “solar farm” consisting of 350 solar trackers at 1545 Hinesburg Road. On April 1, an overview of the project was provided to the Council by staff with the applicant present. At that time, the Council decided to seek intervenor status, have the applicant make a presentation on April 15, and reserve taking a position. After the April 15 meeting, Council asked staff to prepare a letter to the Public Service Board which outlined the following:
• the role of municipalities in the Public Service Board proceedings should be improved through changes to the review process and criteria,
• the City has been the selected location of a number of solar installations already, including those the City has pursued,
• if the proposal was to move forward, it should address some of the specific recommendations put forward by the Planning Commission.
Staff contacted the City Attorney asking to file for intervenor status; on April 25 the City Attorney contacted staff with questions of clarity regarding the City’s interest in the proceedings. Conner presented potential alternatives to intervenor status before the Public Service Board for the Claire Solar certificate of public good petition. Option 1 was to prepare a motion for intervenor status and prepare prefiled testimony. Option 2 involved providing a letter of input to the Public Service Board without seeking intervenor status. This option would not involve the time or cost involved with the pursuit of option 1, but would also mean the Council would have to rescind their prior motion to seek to intervene and would not afford them the same legal status. It was explained that intervenor status would give the City a greater potential role in the Public Service Board review process including the ability to provide testimony, submit discovery, and formally negotiate.
All Councilors had the opportunity to weigh in and they remained in agreement after hearing about the alternatives from Conner and McLean. Interim city Manager Kevin Dorn expressed concern over the long term cost (neither exact figures nor estimates were provided) of hiring an attorney for this purpose. He requested more information on the total number of hours the process is estimated to take which McLean said he can provide. Pat Nowak also mentioned the cost and said she would not go so far as to state her opposition to the project, but agreed with her fellow Councilors that continuing to pursue intervenor status was the way to go.
McLean needed to know the criteria for which the Council was seeking this status prior to moving forward with the request which was due no later than May 1. After McLean outlined the 11 criteria, the Council chose 248 B1 and B5; upholding values related to planning and zoning, concern over wildlife corridors, aesthetics and scope.
After the official filing, discovery requests will be prepared and submitted by May 8th. The technical hearing by the Public Service Board is scheduled for June 13.
SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent