Appeals filed against Candlewood Mountain solar project
Published 12:00 am, Wednesday, February 14, 2018
NEW MILFORD — Town residents and the Candlelight Farms airport have appealed the Connecticut Siting Council’s decision to approve a 20-megawatt solar farm on Candlewood Mountain.
In December, the Siting Council approved a petition from Ameresco Inc., the company that will own and operate the solar project, to install about 60,000 panels. The power generated will feed into the New England power grid through the Rocky River substation.
One appeal filed by last week’s deadline lists the plaintiffs as Rescue Candlewood Mountain, a group of residents who opposed the project; the Ostroves, the couple that started the group; and Candlelight Farms Airport, which is adjacent to the project site.
Pilots had expressed safety concerns, including the possibility that the panels would create a glare.
“We just don’t believe this is the right project for New Milford, and we’re ready to put our money where our mouth is,” Lisa Ostrove said. “You can’t gloss over and ignore the facts.”
Another appeal was filed by Carl Dunham, a resident and business owner who lives next to the project site and is also named in the other appeal. He once owned the land and proposed an active adult community there that was rejected.
Dunham said he also filed
independently because he feels he is the most affected by the project.
He said bookings for weddings at the bed and breakfast he owns next to the solar project site are down 40 percent from last year because people use the site for its bucolic setting and are now unsure how the panels will affect the landscape’s appearance.
Dunham argued the application was rushed so it wouldn’t have to comply with a state statute that went into effect a few days after the petition was filed. That statute requires the Siting Council to weigh the benefits of preserving green space to alternative energy.
Though the Siting Council ruled that law did not apply to this petition, Dunham believes a judge will use it to overturn the council’s ruling.
Town officials did not file an appeal.
But on Monday, the Town Council approved spending up to $25,000 to have Milone and MacBroom, a consulting firm used on other projects in town and already familiar with the site, review the stormwater management plan when it is submitted to the town.
Mayor Pete Bass said the payment in lieu of taxes agreement signed by the previous administration stated the stormwater management plan must be approved by the town’s inlands and wetlands office and/or the mayor. He said he doesn’t have stormwater expertise and wanted someone who does to review the plan to protect the town.
Melanie A. Bachman, executive director and staff attorney for the Connecticut Siting Council, said it’s hard to predict how long an appeal will take. She said the process can take one to three years, depending on whether appeals reach the state Supreme Court or Appellate Court.
The project doesn’t halt while an appeal is pending and construction can start once the Siting Council approves Ameresco’s development and management plan.
The project faced opposition from residents, the town and the state Department of Agriculture because it required clear-cutting about 60 acres of forest. Many raised environmental concerns, including possible erosion, stormwater runoff and loss of habitat for the wildlife living there, including some protected species.
Proponents of the project touted the economic benefits, including jobs and tax revenue, and said it would help the area meet its alternative energy goal. The developers said they would preserve 100 acres of land on the mountain that includes a popular hiking trail.
In an interview in December following the Siting Council’s decision, Bill LaMontagne, a partner with New Milford Clean Power, the site’s developer, said any party has the right to appeal.
“We’re prepared to defend any appeal,” LaMontagne said. He was not immediately available for comment.