Summit Cove solar flare-up: Residents seek resolution, admission of communication breakdown during Monday meeting
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Who: Summit School District officials
What: Community meeting about Summit Cove Solar array project
When: 5 p.m. Monday
Where: Summit Cove Elementary, 727 Cove Boulevard in Dillon
Last week several Summit Cove residents spoke out against a solar array project already under construction near the Soda Creek Open Space and Wetlands located behind Summit Cove Elementary school.
Although further construction is on hold pending a community meeting slated for 5 p.m. Monday at Summit Cove Elementary, 727 Cove Boulevard in Dillon, local residents immediately began circulating a petition against the project citing, among other things, a lack of communication between the Summit School District and Summit Cove homeowners about the coming solar arrays.
On Friday that petition, featuring signatures from close to 90 residents, was delivered to Summit School District superintendent Heidi Pace.
On Sunday, nine-year Summit Cove resident Carol Northcut said she expects a lot of emotions to be expressed during Monday’s meeting. Although there is no set agenda, she expects the school district to try to sell residents on the benefits of solar energy, but Northcut said that’s not the point.
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“Most of us (Summit Cove residents) agree solar energy is a positive thing, but it needs to be done in the right place and in the right way,” she said. “This qualifies as neither.”
Chief among Northcut’s concerns is the proximity of the solar arrays to the Soda Creek wetlands. According to the petition, residents tout the wetlands as vital habitat for deer, elk, fox, coyotes, moose and many species of birds. They think the arrays will adversely affect the wildlife that have come to depend on the area for food and shelter.
“I can’t speak for everyone, but I personally would like to have all of the ground arrays removed and the area revegetated where they have disturbed it,” Northcut said.
Despite a long list of public notices by the school district, which were highlighted July 30 in the Summit Daily News, Northcut is also hoping for an admission by school district officials there was a failure to communicate with residents about the project, “beyond the minimum requirements.”
Judging by language in the petition, Northcut is not alone in her expectations.
“Summit Cove residents have been strong supporters of mill levy increases in the past,” the petition states. “However, it will be difficult to support a school district whose leadership lacks the common sense to foresee the multitude of obvious problems with this project. The school district must act immediately to mitigate this disaster if it wishes to regain the trust and support of our community.”
In its preparation for Monday’s meeting, Jaimee Borger, communications coordinator for the Summit School District, said school district officials plan to present background information to bring those in attendance up to date about the project.
In addition, school district officials will provide residents with time to ask questions and voice concerns about the project. Taking community comments it has already received from Summit Cove homeowners into consideration, school district officials also plan to share its future ideas for the solar arrays at Summit Cove Elementary during Monday’s meeting.
Following three public discussions beginning in September 2012, the Summit School District Board of Education approved in November 2012 its solar array project at Summit Cove Elementary. Similar projects at Summit Middle School and Summit High School also were approved during that November 2012 meeting.
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