Derry resident tells board of problems below solar farm; Town Plan ready for hearing

Jennifer Grycel seeks help from the Select Board for problems she has experienced living below a new solar array. All photos by Bruce Frauman.

By Bruce Frauman
©2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The resident of the blue house located below a solar array, which is now owned and operated by Green Mountain Community Solar, brought to the Londonderry Select Board Monday, May 15  her story of broken promises and a difficult living situation.

Jennifer Grycel, whose home is owned by her parents, told the board that former owner and developer broke many promises when the project was built. Grycel said, “Someone has allowed a solar farm to go above my property. They have taken down trees they were not allowed to take down. The trees that we did agree on, I was supposed to get 6 or 7 cords of wood. I got 3.” She added that debris that was supposed to be cleaned up has not and that runoff from the hillside is coming into both her and her son’s bedrooms.“Now,” she added, “I have a further problem of a bank falling down into my house because of erosion.”

As a result of all this, Grycel said, she is concerned that her property value has dropped. “I would love it if the town would buy property through eminent domain for what they are taxing me on,” she said.

Board member George Mora told Grycel, “I don’t know that there is anything the Select Board could do about that,” since the Public Service Board approved the project, not the town of Londonderry. Mora suggested Grycel talk with current project owner Bruce Genereaux.

Dick Dale explains that the town may get more say in solar farm siting once the Energy Chapter is approved.

Board co-chair Jim Ameden, heading the meeting with the physical absence of chair Paul Gordon, who participated by phone, repeatedly told Grycel the board has no “teeth” in this matter. Board member Bob Forbes and Planning Commission member Dick Dale talked about the new state legislation that will allow the town to have a standing in future renewable project decisions once the Town Plan is updated to include enhanced planning and citing provisions. Grycel left the meeting suddenly when Ameden said there was no time for a “general discussion” on the matter.

Contacted Tuesday, Genereaux wrote in an email to The Telegraph that, “Since taking ownership of the project in December of 2016, Londonderry Community Solar has been introducing itself as the new owner and continues to learn of concerns of neighbors and the town of Londonderry and promises made by the prior owner.
“As part of the process of completion of the construction, this spring a pollinator mix was planted and evergreen vegetative screening of views from Thompsonburg Road and clean up following the clearing of the Grycel and the Hodge parcels is scheduled in June.”

A new Town Plan, Transfer Station and Genser updates

Planning Commission chair Sharon Crossman says the new Town Plan is ready for the Select Board.

Planning Commission chair Sharon Crossman said the commission had voted at its last meeting to adopt the draft Town Plan as its final version. Crossman said the old town plan was 10 years old and has been updated extensively. Copies will be made available at the Town Clerk’s office, a Planning Commission hearing will be scheduled toward the end of June, and a Select Board hearing 30 to 120 days after that.

Crossman said the energy section will be updated by the new town Energy Committee to become compliant with new state regulations calling for enhanced energy planning and siting. That new section could be added to the Town Plan by amendment. That process could take a year to complete.

The board also approved a letter to the Public Service Board in support of a proposed solar array proposed by the Norris Brothers on Yrsha property just south of the transfer station.

An application for a wetlands permit was approved by the board as part of the Town Office planning project. Board member Forbes said he would like more information about the goals of the project. Town Administrator Stephanie Thompson said several people working on the project will be invited to the next Select Board meeting to provide an update.

The board agreed to accept a settlement agreement with VOSHA, admitting to one serious violation regarding lockout/tagout procedures and paying a $1,250 fine. Gordon said the town received notice of the violation on May 3 and has since met with town employees and developed a program and training to take equipment off line when problems are found. The town will have completed this procedure by the end of June.

Bill Wiley also addresses the new salt and sand shed.

Transfer Station overseer Esther Fishman said the committee met to work out details of the proposed punch card system. A bulk rate card was added to accommodate contractors. Weston Market Place and the Londonderry Hardware have agreed to sell the punch cards. At Fishman’s request, the board approved the initiative at the Transfer Station and a $1 per bag rate increase: from $1 to $2 for a 13-gallon bag, from $3 to $4 for a 30-gallon bag and from $5 to $6 for a large construction bag.

The price for the annual stickers will remain the same: $10 for residents and $25 for commercial users. A transition period will take place from Oct. 2 to Dec. 31 when punch cards will be available at the Transfer Station for purchase.

The board appointed former road foreman Wayne Blanchard as assistant road commissioner. Ameden, who is also the town road commissioner, said Blanchard’s knowledge of Londonderry roads is helpful. The board also increased the hourly rate of the road foreman to $22 per hour. Board member Tom Cavanagh said Matthew Rawson is “doing a good job.”

Forbes said the structural engineer is being consulted on the final siting of the salt and sand shed. The shed will be moved north slightly farther into the bank. Gravel from the bank can be used to “minimize the amount of fill needed” for the shed and “maximize the amount of gravel taken from the hill” to be used for the building and possible road use.

From left, board members George Mora, Bob Forbes and Tom Cavanagh.

Thompson said the town will be given an extension on the grant for the Genser property and requests for bids have gone out for asbestos removal and demolition of the former Outlet Barn. The board will meet at 5:30 p.m. Thursday May 25 to review the bids and grant the contract.

Gordon said the auction for the Frog’s Leap Inn will take place at 1 p.m. on June 16. The town is working with an attorney to remove the current occupant by then.

Gordon also said that the Lego Contest will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 21 at Londonderry Town Hall on Middletown Road.  And a Hazardous Waste Collection Day will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 3.

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