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Commercial Solar Array Planned For Outer East Street in Pittsfield
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
01:18AM / Thursday, October 05, 2017
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The site is just south of the heavily residential Yankee Orchards neighborhood.


A public hearing will be held next Wednesday on the proposed 1.9-megawatt solar array.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Some 11 acres of heavily vegetated land on East Street is eyed to be cleared to make way for a commercial solar array.
 
BVD Solar is seeking a special permit to construct a 1.9-megawatt array on a 73-acre percent near Winesap Road — the parcel just to the west of the Yankee Orchards.
 
Of that 73 acres, 20.6 will be cut off from the parcel for the solar array installed and 11 acres of that will need to be cleared.
 
"This is what you call outer east street," City Planner CJ Hoss said. "There is quite a bit of vegetation on that parcel right now."
 
The plan went before the Community Development Board for a site plan review on Tuesday. But the developer or an engineer wasn't there to give a presentation. Hoss said something must have gone wrong with the communication because that was the first time in six years a project of such a scale didn't have representation.
 
Nonetheless, the Community Development Board went ahead with its recommendations on the site plan as outlined by city staff. Hoss said the project raises little concern and in prior projects, BVD has shown its willingness to work with neighbors.
 
The Zoning Board of Appeals is the ultimate permit granting authority and a public hearing on the project is scheduled before that board next Wednesday.
 
Hoss did, however, raise some concern regarding the proximity to neighbors. He suggested screening should specifically be considered by the ZBA.
 
"The usual issue we have with these solar projects is visibility, especially with the residential neighborhood in the area," Hoss said.
 
He added that even with screening requirements, having the city return to the site in the future to make sure it is sufficient would be a good idea.
 
"There is so much land clearing that needs to be done that it is difficult to tell what is visible and what is not," Hoss said.
 
Board member Louis Costi was particularly concerned with the neighborhood impacts. He isn't sure if the neighborhood knows right now how big of a project this will actually be. Costi pushed for the board to delay a decision to be able to reschedule a time to meet with the developers.
 
Fellow board member David Hathaway countered Costi, saying the developers aren't required to attend the meeting, that the board had limited scope in what it can do, and that the board has enough information based on the application.
 
He added since the ZBA is the permit granting authority, that board's hearing is another chance to bring concerns to the developer.
 
"There is no reason not to approve the site plan because there is nothing wrong with it," Hathaway said. 
 
Hoss added, "if there were significant concerns here, as a staff we would push you to delay it." 
 
Ultimately the board approved the site plan with Costi abstaining from the vote. 
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