Derry board to vote on Energy Plan Oct. 1

Select Board member Tom Cavanagh and Energy Committee member Bob Borella listen as Planning Commission chair Sharon Crossman speaks about the Energy Plan. All photos by Bruce Frauman.

By Bruce Frauman
©2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

No one from the public commented during the required public hearing on the Enhanced Energy Plan proposed for the Londonderry Town Plan. The hearing was held prior to Monday night’s Select Board meeting.

The board then added the plan to its Oct. 1 meeting agenda for their vote.

Planning Commission chair Sharon Crossman said Monday’s hearing was a state requirement for a town plan amendment, and Energy Committee member Bob Borella said the Windham Regional Commission held its hearing a month and half ago to review the language of the Town Plan and the energy component to make sure both met state guidelines. He said the Public Utilities Commission accepted the WRC approval of both plans so Select Board approval is the final hurdle before adoption.

Borella said the goal is to help Londonderry help the state meet its goal of having 90 percent of its energy come from renewable sources by 2050 and to save as much energy as possible. Town Administrator Robert Nied said the “substantial deference” awarded the town by the Public Utility Commission once the plan is approved will be important as developers seek approval for solar energy projects.

Expansion of solar array overlooking Thompsonburg Road

As an example of the importance of approving the Energy Plan, Nied said he does not have much leverage with Green Mountain Community Solar, the developer of the solar site on Route 11 near Thompsonburg Road. He had asked the owner to submit Phase Two to a review by the Development Review Board.

Borella said he’d like to see more involvement of the Energy Committee during solar array approvals.

Both Phase One, which has been built, and Phase Two, which has been proposed, were approved by the Public Utility Commission before the state rule went into effect requiring community involvement. Phase Two will more than double the existing array with 186 kW from 68 solar modules on 54,500 square feet of cleared land. The owner has promised to come to the Development Review Board if there is a Phase Three.

Nied said he just learned days ago that the PUC has granted a Certificate of Public Good to the Bove Brothers, owners of the Mountain Market Place, for a roof mounted solar array. Nied does not know any details and said he has no leverage to ask.

Energy Committee member Borella initiated a long discussion on the role of the committee in town decision-making when solar developers seek permits. He would like to see the committee act as a liaison between developers and town boards. Forbes said the committee will advise the DRB and the Select Board. Board chair Jim Ameden said the EC should get permit requests at the same time as the DRB. Assistant Zoning Administrator Crossman said a flow should be developed for notifications and procedures of the permit process. Nied agreed, saying “we need to document the process for projects to be reviewed.”

Help for those wishing to start a business

RT Brown, Windham County Economic Development Program project manager for the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp., said he will be offering a five-week course for anyone who wants to start a business.

RT Brown, program manager of Windham County Economic Development, is encouraging those who wish to start a business to attend his seminars.

Crossman said no one attended his previous offering but Brown said this year he is collaborating with Neighborhood Connections to get the word out to more people. Brown said along with loans for small businesses, technical assistance is available to help individuals run a business better.

In explaining their relationship, Brown said that Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies sets the strategy and the BDCC  implements it. Jennifer Stromsten, director of programs for the BDCC, said the two groups have published an annual report to highlight all the work they are doing in the region. She also said they are building up a network of young people partly though a series of webinars.

Brown told Maryann Morris, executive director of the Collaborative, that the USDA has programs available for community facilities such as child care, emergency facilities and housing.

Heading in another direction, Morris said that until everyone understands what is in the new state marijuana legalization law, “we are in it to listen.” A poll has been distributed to learn more about the community’s understanding of the law and its attitude toward it. The Collaborative will then develop a health education plan around it.

Maryann Morris of the Collaborative explains her work on opioid use and athletes.

In addition, Morris asked for support of an initiative to pass a state law to ask student athletes to sign an acknowledgment that they have been informed about opioid use.

As a test, this form has been sent to all Flood Brook middle school students and their parents. Morris told board member Bob Forbes that athletes are being targeted because they are more likely to be injured and prescribed opioids. The goal is to have them educated to alternatives before they are injured.

With the absence of George Mora at this meeting, the board took member Bob Forbes’ suggestion that they wait until there is a full board before deciding whether to support this individually or unanimously as a board.

State Rep. Kelly Pajala said what Morris is doing is very forward looking and what might come from the state may be different.

On the zoning compliance front

Town and Zoning Administrator Robert Nied discusses bringing properties into zoning compliance.

Nied, acting as town Zoning Administrator, said the owners of two sites on Middletown Road will be cleared by late fall. One, containing a burned-out building, will be cleared by Oct. 31. The second, at Route 100 and Middletown Road, will be cleared by Nov. 30.

There have been approximately 31 issues of properties in non-compliance, according to Nied. Some have been substantial, and all have been resolved by sending notification to property owners and negotiating with them to reach compliance. None went to the attorney. Nied gave one owner some breathing room because of a serious family issue. That issue had been scheduled to go to the attorney.

FREE SMOKE DETECTORS: And finally, Ameden, who is also the chief of the Phoenix Volunteer Fire Department, said that beginning on Oct. 13, his department and the Weston Fire Department will be offering free smoke detectors and their installation to those that need them through a program of the American Red Cross of Vermont and New Hampshire. According to the town website, these smoke detectors will last for 10 years without battery replacement.  To obtain a smoke detector, leave a message on the Weston Fire Department non-emergency number at 802-824-3539.

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