On October 18, 2017

Rutland report

By Lani Duke

Chamber annual meeting looking at Rutland positives

RUTLAND—Good things are happening in Rutland, Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mary Cohen told the Rutland Herald. The Chamber’s annual meeting Oct. 19 in the Paramount Theatre features the details of a regional marketing initiative and keynote speaker Bill Shouldice. It honors 2017 Business Leader of the Year Tom Huebner and the nine local residents selected to join the 2017 “40 Under 40” by Vermont Business magazine.

Chamber Board Chair Bill Ackerman said some other communities envy Rutland for the rapidity in which the community raised $200,000 for the marketing initiative. The initiative, themed “The Real Rutland,” counters negative ideas about the community and showcases jobs, activities, and crime reduction. Funding came from 10 local individuals who pooled $10,000 each and secured a two-year, $100,000 commitment from the city’s Zamias mall-impact fund.

Rains cause sewer overflow

RUTLAND—Heavy rains the morning of Oct. 9 triggered a combined sewer overflow in three of the four relief valves in East Creek and Otter Creek. The Rutland City Public Works Department advised the public to “avoid contact recreation” downstream of the valves for 48 hours. These valves release water when unusually heavy precipitation overwhelms sewer capacity. The water’s escape prevents backup on streets and into buildings.

House fire not an accident

RUTLAND—Three trucks and nine firefighters turned out to extinguish an Oct. 7 fire at a single-family house at 31 East St. A quick response to the flames on the structure’s left front porch kept the fire from entering the building. It was considered under control within 30 minutes after it had been reported, and was put out with water that the fire department trucks carried to the site.

There were no injuries or damage to other nearby buildings, according to the Rutland Herald.

Investigators have determined the fire was human-caused and are continuing to study the source of the blaze. The house had been standing vacant, acquired by the city in December 2015 for unpaid property taxes and was on a list of properties the city would probably sell, Mayor David Allaire said. The single-family house last sold for $39,649 in December 2012, according to the website Zillow.com. The police report estimates the property received $25,000 in fire and water damage. Anyone with information about the fire’s cause may call the Arson Tip Line, 800-32-ARSON, or report information to Detective Sgt. Thomas Williams, 773-9101.

Rutland Town solar development controversy heating up

RUTLAND TOWN—Vermonters for a Clean Environment (VCE) members Justin Lindholm and John Brabant trespassed in September when they took photographs showing heavy wildlife use of the largely forested land that makes up the proposed Otter Creek 1 and Otter Creek 2 solar development sites, Michael Melone of Allco Renewable Energy Limited complained. He was formally objecting to use of the material the two men submitted with the Public Utility Commission Oct. 4, because they obtained it after having been told to stay off the property, the attorney wrote in his petition. Averring that the evidence is “the direct product of improper conduct,” Melone argued that the PUC should reject any evidence the pair of environmental advocates presented.

The PUC had formally visited the site in May, but Lindholm and Brabant were told the 56-acre site was too wet and hazardous for them to examine it. Allco Consultant Brad Wilson accompanied the VCE pair on a June 27 visit. They videotaped and recorded their observations, but were not told they could not return, according to the Rutland Herald Oct. 4. During their later return, Lindholm and Brabant documented extensive deer trails along with abundant deposits of scat and substantial browsing evidence. The lack of young sugar maples and some nibbling on young buckthorn also indicate deer use the site as a travel corridor, Lindholm, a former member of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board, observed.

He qualified that finding by saying that it is not a deer yard nor prime bear habitat, but it is a key wildlife travel route between Route 7 and fencing, like at the GE plant. VCE has asked for a planned inclusion of a 100-foot-wide wildlife travel corridor between Otter Creek 1 and Otter Creek 2 so that deer may travel while protected from human and coyote predators.

Annette Smith, VCE executive director, said the group’s members would refrain from visiting the solar sites after receiving a letter from Melone that forbade them to access the property.

Neighbors claim solar project violated permit

RUTLAND TOWN—People who live near the solar installation GroSolar erected on Cold River Road in Rutland Town are complaining the company violated its permit conditions. The developer did not use non-glare photovoltaic panels as specified in the state permit, nor were landscaping conditions obeyed, they told Rutland Town Select Board chair Joshua Terenzini.

The board unanimously agreed to ask the town’s attorney Kevin Brown of Middlebury to investigate the alleged violations, according to the Rutland Herald. The 2015 Certificate of Public Good that the Public Service Board granted the developer stipulated the panels be non-glare, Select Board member Mary Ashcroft said Oct. 5. The mandated landscaping is not intended to cut the glare but to reduce overall visibility.

Some neighbors have been unhappy with the project since its inception. Although the CPG agrees that it adversely affects the neighborhood, it is not an “undue” adverse effect in legal terms, Ashcroft noted. That is the fulcrum on which the Public Service Board relied when granting the 98-page permit 3-2, two years ago. The developer no longer owns the installation; it was sold to EDF Renewable Energy of San Diego.

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