Editor’s note: Given the interest in the proposed development of a solar farm on Natick Avenue and community concerns over other solar and wind energy projects in Cranston and adjoining Johnston, the following letter is being published on the front page:
To the Editor:
As residents of the Natick Avenue neighborhood in Cranston, we are writing to thank the Herald for its recent coverage of a proposed solar farm project on a 30-acre wooded portion of the Rossi Christmas Tree Farm, located on Phenix Avenue. As the article noted, the proposed project by Southern Sky Renewable Energy – a company that has five other projects in various stages of development throughout Cranston – poses several risks to the neighborhood, including clear-cutting of hundreds (if not thousands) of trees, potential blasting and drilling of an unknown amount of ledge adjacent to a high-pressure gas line, and the construction of new, much higher telephone poles along a one-mile stretch of Natick Avenue.
In the article, City Planning Director Jason Pezzullo said that the city’s primary interest is “safeguarding peoples’ interest.” Many of us read that comment and wondered whose interests he is actually describing. Consider the following.
Pezzullo describes the project as a “short-term” solution to “hold” the land, in the words of the Herald article, “until a point where the city has the resources to preserve it, should it choose.” The project has a 25-year lease. In 25 years, all of our children will be grown and gone, and in reality, many of us will likely be gone as well. Indeed, 25 years is largely accepted as the length of a generation. In whose dictionary is a generation defined as “short term”?
Moreover, the contention that the solar farm is intended to “preserve” the land is almost laughable. This woodland is being destroyed, not preserved, and not in a residential manner, but in an industrial manner. Cranston residents should not be misled: This solar farm is a large-scale, manufacturing project designed to generate 8.1 megawatts of electricity. This is a money play, pure and simple, designed to enrich the parties involved. The electricity generated will not even benefit the surrounding neighborhood or the city of Cranston itself.
Pezzullo also countered that the land could potentially support 15 to 25 homes (in other meetings, this was presented as up to 60 homes) – would the surrounding residents prefer that? While all of us would prefer the land remain untouched, some of us would in fact choose friendly human neighbors over acres of solar panels. However, even Pezzullo admitted the cost of developing a new subdivision on this parcel makes it a difficult, if not impossible, proposition for the city to consider. To the surrounding neighbors, this “option” feels more like a threat being wielded to scare us into acquiescence.
Herald readers, please ask yourselves: would you want this behemoth, literally, in your back yard? This development could potentially affect our safety, our home’s structural integrity, our peaceful way of life, and our overall property values for decades to come. And as Pezzullo noted in the article, it is perfectly legal under a zoning amendment approved last year.
So yes, it could happen to you. Please join us in supporting renewable energy where it belongs – not in residential neighborhoods or farmlands, but in brown fields, landfills, and other similar sites.
Finally, we deeply appreciate the careful consideration the Planning Commission is giving this project, and we encourage the residents of Cranston to attend its upcoming meeting on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, to learn more and express their concerns.
Drake Patten, Wright Deter, Dan and Holly Zevon, and other concerned residents of Natick Avenue