Carbondale city council denies plan for Brightfields solar array

Carbondale city council postpone vote for Brightfields solar array

CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - The plan to place a solar array in the Northeast side of Carbondale, Illinois has been denied.

On Oct. 2, the discussion between a concerned community and a solar array developer continued at the Carbondale Civic Center. The Planning Commission’s Public hearing centered around the whether or not Brightfields Development will get a “special use permit” for a solar array in the Northeast part of Carbondale.

On Nov. 5, the Council voted 7-0 to deny the plan for the solar array.

The plan would have included a $34-40 million investment in project/hardware, at least six months of work/employment, $1.2-1.3 million investment in the northeast area (potential taxes) and in good faith a 1.5 million investment in neighborhood over a 25-year period.

“We haven’t heard a positive thing about the project from the neighborhood, so it was the end of the discussion,” said City Council member Navreet Kang.

Daniel Voss, the Vice-President of New Markets at Brightfields said, “We’re encouraged by the overwhelming support expressed for Solar Energy in general, but disappointed in the outcome of this particular vote. We still believe in the potential for the Koppers site to deliver real value to the local community.”

The array would have be built where the former Kopper’s Wood Treatment Plant used to be located.

According to the EPA, the area in question used to contains contaminated soil. The Planning Commission Chairman Sandy Litecky say many people in the community have opinions."There’s a history to this that goes back many years, so that’s all involved in this...People that live close by in the community oppose it and other people support it ...so there’s always controversy," Litecky says.

Members of the Northeast Carbondale community, like Pepper Holder, are against the construction of the array for health concerns if the contaminated land is disturbed.

Holder has been in Carbondale for most of his 69 years he said, and in that time he saw the effects of the contamination on friends in family in the form of various forms of cancer. He said he’s been fighting the array proposal since it’s first proposals.

His biggest concern with the array proposal, he said, is that the Northeastern Carbondale residents never got any help from the city or Koppers when people got sick.

“When are the gonna stand up and do the right thing and evaluate the health of the people who live in this area?” he said.

The city council did give a time-sensitive permit to the company in the past. However, since the 3 years are up, the developers have to get another approval from the Commission and ask for another permit tonight. Karen Knodt, with the Racial Justice Coalition, says she’s not against solar, just feels the that’s not the best location.

Knodt, “There hasn’t been good conversation with the northeast community where this will be located and who has the history with that land, and with the Kopper site and with the family members who worked there and died there because of the contamination...who have questions about contamination in their own yards that have not been answered to their satisfaction," Knodt says.

Vice President of New Markets for Brightfields, Dan Voss, said the company understands the concerns of the community but feels confident that the array can be built without harming the environment or disturbing the contamination below the land.

“This site has been capped with a protective layor of soil over material that was contaminated during the operation of the business,” he said about the contamination from Koppers.

He also said that the way the array is planned, construction won’t dig into the earth under the site where the contamination lies.

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