Sharon voters approve solar project 338 to 171

Officials begin the process of tallying vote results at the town-wide referendum held on Friday, Jan. 5. The single-issue vote would approve the proposed solar array at Sharon Center School.

Photo by Leila Hawken

Sharon voters approve solar project 338 to 171

SHARON — By a margin of 338 to 171, the proposed solar array project at Sharon Center School was approved by voters at a referendum on Friday, Jan. 5. Nearly 30% of registered voters in Sharon turned out to the polls.

Significant controversy had arisen over whether the project to install multiple solar panels on town-owned property adjacent to Sharon Center School should be allowed to proceed. Opposing the plan were Hilltop Road residents living near the project and others concerned about environmental issues and the condition and fate of the nature trail on site.

A town meeting in the summer of 2022, with 14 in attendance, had authorized entering into a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the Green Bank organization that had proposed the project in collaboration with the Sharon Energy and Environment Commission (SEEC).

Based on a petition submitted by residents calling for a town-wide referendum vote on the project, a town meeting was held in late November of 2023, leading to the early January referendum.

Under the 2022 PPA, Verogy, a West Hartford Solar Energy engineering company, had submitted an application to the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) for project design approval, but ultimately requested a postponement of a P&Z decision until after the referendum vote.

Accordingly, the P&Z was expected to consider the Verogy application at its next meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, January 10.

“It is very gratifying to witness the vote this evening,” said SEEC member Doug Rick, commenting on the referendum results with two-thirds of voters having approved the project.

“I’d like to thank all who came out to vote, despite the controversy,” Rick said. Speaking of the solar project, he added, “It’s a small but important first step for Sharon on the journey to 100% renewable energy.”

First Selectman Casey Flanagan said that he was pleased by the vote count and the strong turnout.

“I applaud the efforts of both sides of the debate,” Flanagan added. “This is a step in the right direction for Sharon in reducing our carbon footprint.”

Resident David Levinson, who represented the efforts of those in opposition to the project, was present on Friday to hear the vote announced, provided a statement the following day in response.

“Although I am disappointed in the results, I would like to thank everyone who came out and voted. Although the majority voted for the project, I think it is very important to recognize that 171 residents (or one-third of the votes cast) asked the town to reconsider the location and the details of the plan,” Levinson said.

Levinson said that he and the group opposing the plan remain hopeful that the P&Z will consider the merits of the data provided by their engineer and an environmental scientist.

“We ask the P&Z to work with the applicant to make sure everything being planned is within the Town and State regulations. We want to make sure any impact on the abutting property / wetlands is avoided, that proper screening is being planned to protect the beauty of the town and the neighborhood, and that the promises made to protect and rejuvenate the Kelemen Nature Trail will be fulfilled,” Levinson said.

Speaking of the nature trail, selectwoman Lynn Kearcher said that she was disappointed that school administration had allowed the trail area to deteriorate and become overgrown, and that “the town did not have the foresight to fortify the school roof to accommodate solar panels.”

“I feel the school needs to engage in a more concerted effort to provide a firm assessment of the true energy costs once their costly new heat pumps are up and running,” Kearcher added.

About the referendum results, Kearcher said, “I am proud of the debate this has inspired, and the people have spoken. I honor their decision.”

Latest News

Kent Fire Department votes to purchase a new ambulance

KENT — On Monday, July 15 at a Special Membership Meeting, the Kent Volunteer Fire Department passed a motion to purchase a new ambulance.

The vehicle in question is a demo model 2024 Ford F-450 4x4 Medix Type 1, 153” ambulance. This issue was the only topic on the agenda for the night.

Keep ReadingShow less
The Corner Food Pantry comes to the Salisbury Association

SALISBURY — Starting Aug. 3, the Salisbury Association will be hosting an exhibit on The Corner Food Pantry.

The exhibit at the Academy Building on 24 Main St in Salisbury will showcase the food pantry and all it does for northwest Connecticut. Visitors will learn more about the challenges of sourcing food and volunteers, and planning for the future.

Keep ReadingShow less
Sharon moves money out of rainy day fund

SHARON — Sharon held a town meeting vote on July 12 to decide on two motions, which both passed. There were 16 residents in attendance.

The motions considered funds from the undesignated fund for two projects approved by the Board of Finance. The first was an approval of up to $66,000 for the sidewalk replacement project. The second was an approval for an additional sum of up to $300,000 for the Town Hall parking lot expansion project.

Oscar Theodore Fischer

LAKEVILLE — Oscar Theodore “Bud” Fischer, Jr., 98, passed away Saturday, July 13, 2024, at home in Lakeville. He was the beloved husband of Tru (Carver) Fischer with whom he was married for 73 years.

Bud was born in Poughkeepsie, on March 9, 1926, son of the late Oscar T. Fischer, Sr., and Clara Augusta (Ferguson) Fischer, and had been an area resident for most of his life before retiring to the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area in 1989.

Keep ReadingShow less