LETTER: Concerns raised about Summerland solar site

Reports should be studied carefully before making decision

Dear Editor:

The solar integration project meeting on May 6 was interesting. Lots of info that was already on the website and some that is not.

The site chosen is of concern to me. It is a wonderful site and perfect for this project. So perfect and so obvious that I am concerned the staff and consultants did not really look at other sites.

Certainly the other three locations were ridiculously inappropriate.

READ ALSO: Summerland solar project will provide electricity

READ ALSO: Site selected for Summerland solar project

The Dunn Street houses were purchased by the municipality as lands for potential expansion of the waste water treatment plant. They wait as rental housing.

The lands around the landfill will be too dusty for solar panels and who knows how we will have to expand and manage our landfill.

The roofs of the arena and police station were too small to do the whole project. It may be in the future we will make use of this space.

Clearly the south toe of Cartwright Mountain is by far an easier site to use.

It has long been in the plan to use these lands to facilitate the expansion of the sewer into the North Prairie Valley area to service the millions of dollars worth of municipally-owned lands — lands we can use for residential development, perhaps even affordable housing.

It has also been part of the plan to provide sewer service to the Deer Ridge area. There are times when the ground water draining off the upper areas of Cartwright Mountain carries water from the Deer Ridge septic tanks to the farmlands below.

READ ALSO: Summerland’s solar power array on schedule

Are there other options for the solar panels? Yes there are. How well would they work? I don’t know because I am unable to access the reports dealing with the professional analysis. When I asked, I was told I would need to do a Freedom of Information Request to get this information.

Reports paid for with taxpayer funds are routinely released for public consumption.

Of greater concern is that council itself had only two days to consider the information before deciding on the site.

After a couple of terms on council I developed an interest in reading through reports created by professionals and tried my best to integrate them with the knowledge of people who had been here much longer than me and had a feel for the area.

It is the combining of the professional expertise and the consultation with local knowledge that creates the best plans.

We have a significant staff turnover. We recently lost our planner and our chief administrative officer.

We are an expensive place to buy a home. We have not solved the dilemma of housing affordability. And we are all opposed to more development.

The future holds huge population shifts as the climate continues to change.

Our Official Community Plan is 11 years old and confused due to many incremental changes. It is past time for council to initiate a community plan review process. It gives us a chance to work more closely with our new planning staff so we can all come to a better understanding of where we want to go.

I look forward to receiving the documents underpinning this solar project decision so I can be reassured this is the best location.

In the meantime, the decision makers can see if there is a way to do this project without preventing our community from utilizing an important asset for future growth and affordable housing.

Lorraine Bennest

Summerland

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