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On Canterbury Lane Solar energy, neighbors’ views fuel neighborhood battle

February 1, 2019 GMT

What’s customary in Ridgefield yards? Birdbaths? Dog houses? Solar arrays?

Does planting trees offer effective long-term screening? Should solar power’s environmental value outweigh solar arrays’ potential change to a neighborhood’s look?

These were issues recently debated as the Canterbury Lane neighborhood dispute had its second public airing out before the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Pleas for battling neighbors to work out their differences and get along were offered by several speakers at the two-and-a-half hour hearing.

Greg Dellacourt of Canterbury Lane covered all the bases.

“In a town accustomed to seeing stone walls, trees, fields, this view is not customary,” he said, supporting Sanjay Tripathi’s objections to the more than 11-foot-high solar array being built at Dane Unger’s new home.

But Dellacourt was also sympathetic to the Ungers’ desire for clean solar power — as were many speakers.

“As a town, we cannot keep our heads in the sand ... and find ways to embrace alternative energy and reduce our use of fossil fuel,” he said at the January 28 meeting.

Pam Gugliotta of Saunders Lane, supporting the Ungers, testified to the benefits a screen of trees might offer for neighbors who don’t like seeing solar arrays.

“When we moved to Saunders Lane, there was a horse farm behind us. Today it’s East Farm Lane,” she said.

But when Gugliotta and her husband saw houses going up in the subdivision behind them, they didn’t try to halt construction.

“What did we do? We planted trees,” she said.

“If they planted eight or nine white pines their problems are solved, and they can all be friends,” she said.

The specific issue appealed was whether Zoning Enforcement Officer Richard Baldelli was properly interpreting the regulations last year when he issued a permit for the Ungers’ solar array.

“I felt it was an accessory structure,” Baldelli told the board. “Accessory structures clearly incidental and subordinate may be permitted by the zoning enforcement officer.”

He said concern for neighbors’ view was irrelevant to whether the approval should have been granted.

“There’s nothing in the regulations that protects anyone’s view of anything,” he said. “Unless you own it, you can’t guarantee the view of anything.”

The public hearing was closed, but the board did not vote. As of Tuesday the board was still trying to settle on a date to meet for a decision session — at which the public will be welcome to listen, but not to speak.