Long after the upstairs meeting room at the Shelburne town offices emptied out Tuesday night, three members of the selectboard without fanfare emerged from a closed-door session to cast a unanimous vote for a solar-power deal meant to last for the next 25 years.
The board directed Town Manager Lee Krohn to sign two agreements on the town’s behalf: one in which Shelburne will purchase net-metered electricity credit for power generated by a new 500-megawatt array along Lake Champlain in St. Albans; the other will power Pierson Library largely from a solar installation planned for the new library rooftop.
The contracts are with Encore Renewable Energy, Burlington-based firm with 12 years’ experience in large-scale commercial and municipal solar projects across Vermont and the region.
Chief Executive Chad Farrell said the company locates projects in the built environment such as atop large buildings or blanketing closed and capped landfills. Some examples: the closed South Burlington landfill which now hosts a 2.2-megawatt array, a parking lot roof at Burlington International Airport, a new parking canopy at the ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain in Burlington, and the Von Trapp Brewery in Stowe, Farrell said. The company currently is designing installations for Shelburne Museum and the closed Jericho town landfill.
“This is right in our wheelhouse,” Farrell said of the Shelburne municipal project.
Encore this summer will install the Pierson Library solar panels which will produce 35-40 kilowatts per year, about seven to eight times the typical residential solar installation, Farrell explained.
In addition, the town government will contract with Encore for 25 years to purchase net-metered solar power through Green Mountain Power. That will support a new permitted Encore project on what Farrell describes as “under-utilized farmland” along Maquam Shore Road in St. Albans which Encore expects to construct this summer, Farrell said.
The power purchase will be applied to the electric needed run Shelburne’s two wastewater treatment plants each year at a 12 percent discount on the energy bill. The bottom line for Shelburne with both arrangements will be an annual savings of approximately $17,000. Over 25 years, that will add up to a savings of about $500,000, Farrell said.
“There are obvious economic benefits in the savings we are going to realize, but there are other benefits as well such as less reliance on carbon,” said Selectboard Chair Jerry Storey.
Solar atop the library was “hoped for at the very start” of planning that project, he said. “This is a really neat delivery on that promise.” Storey added that there’s also been some discussion about how the library can incorporate an educational element to explain how the installation works.
The Encore contracts were approved by Storey and board members Dr. Colleen Parker and Mike Ashooh. Board member Mary Kehoe was absent; Vice Chair Jaime Heins has recused himself from the matter.
Engineer: Sewer design works
Earlier in the evening several dozen people attended for discussions of measures proposed for Falls Road to increase pedestrian and bicycle safety, and the proposed plan to connect the new residential development by Snyder Homes along Spear Street to the town sewer system.
The sewer conversation began two weeks ago and residents of the Shelburne Heights neighborhood returned to continue discussion of the potential impact that the new development just south of their neighborhood will have when it hooks up to the town sewer system, sending its wastewater through the lines that serve Shelburne Heights. The 92-unit development on a former section of Kwiniaska golf course has received local permits; it is now in the state Act 250 development review process.
Near the end of the local permitting review more than a year ago, town and project officials changed the wastewater route from using lines along Webster Road to Shelburne Heights. Residents said they only recently learned of the change, prompting them to petition the selectboard because of concerns over whether their lines could handle the increased wastewater.
The selectboard on May 31 hired an outside engineer to review the plans. In a letter to town officials, Alan Huiznega of Green Mountain Engineering in Williston, said the current design is viable and that the Shelburne Heights system would operate at most at 58 percent of its capacity with the Snyder development at peak usage.
Toni Supple, a former selectboard member and Shelburne Heights resident, thanked the board for its quick attention to the matter. “It’s so important to get this correct,” she said.
She and her husband, Bill Supple, however, continued to push the board for more detailed explanations of the decision to reroute Snyder’s wastewater. Current board member Ashooh, who also lives in the neighborhood, recused himself from the discussion.
The board ultimately directed the town manager to clarify some details with Huiznega and promised residents they would review town insurance coverage should problems arise in the future.
A walkable Falls Road
About an hour of Tuesday’s meeting was devoted to discussing a presentation by the Village Pedestrian Safety Group of short- and long-term safety improvements to the Falls Road corridor, some of which are budgeted and others recommended for the future.
Group member Jim White summarized, noting improvements already made such as lower speed limits, a radar speed indicator sign along the northbound lane, and crosswalks. The next phase already budgeted includes another speed indicator sign, narrower vehicle lanes and an expanded grass strip and bike lane.
“Traffic-calming” suggestions for the future include speed tables, a stop sign or pedestrian traffic signal at Church Street and Falls Road, more speed enforcement by police and design changes such as streetlamps and curbing between the shopping center and Marsett Road.
Some supported the suggestions, and others questioned their necessity.
“I think this is a really excellent plan,” said Steve Antinozzi, a former member of the Bike & Pedestrian Paths Committee. He encouraged steps to physically separate people from vehicle traffic.
Falls Road resident Linda Riell liked what she saw in slides illustrating the recommendations. “This is so normal looking,” she said. “I feel that’s how it should be.”
Others disagreed. “I’ve lived on that road all my life. I don’t see the issues these people are highlighting,” said Ernie Goodrich. “Falls Road is probably the safest road in Chittenden County.”
His brother and Shelburne Highway Superintendent Paul Goodrich agreed and suggested that other roads such as Dorset Street, Irish Hill Road and Bostwick Road, pose greater dangers to pedestrians and bicyclists. “I don’t think we ought to touch this road at all,” he said of Falls Road.
Selectboard members suggested they revisit the topic in the fall ahead of budgeting for next year.
The board also took action on the following:
- Set a July 9 public hearing date for proposed zoning amendments regarding accessory apartments. Details are on the town website.
- Approved a request from Shelburne Police to apply for a $3,880 state grant for computer hardware to process traffic tickets electronically.
- Approved donating $250 from the board’s discretionary fund in memory of Thomas Bayer Chauncey Little, the son of Town Moderator Tom Little.