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Brightfields vote delayed by Carbondale City Council

Carbondale Southern Illinoisan

Wednesday, October 10, 2018  |  Article  |  by ISAAC SMITH The Southern

Energy, Alternative Energy (93)

CARBONDALE — A vote to decide the fate of a years long and hotly-contested development project on Carbondale’s northeast side was delayed Tuesday. The Carbondale City Council voted to delay a vote on the special use permit for the Brightfields solar development.

Carbondale Planning Commission votes to not recommend a special use permit for Brightfields solar array at old tie plant site

The Brightfields development has been in the works in one form or another for more than a decade. The plan was to develop the sizable “brownfield” as it has been deemed by the Environment Protection Agency. It has also long been a point of contention for residents of the neighborhood.

The delay came after Mayor Mike Henry told the council he had approached Daniel Voss, vice president of new markets for Brightfields, about updating the council on what the financial benefit would be to the city. There had been a projection given when the council initially voted on the project in 2015 and Henry was wanting to see if the value had changed.

All councilmen but Jessica Bradshaw voted to delay the vote by two weeks.

As to the future of the project, Voss said he’s not sure exactly what will happen if the special use permit gets voted down during the next meeting. He said that is needed in order to complete key bidding portions of the development process.

He said he has never had this many issues and this much blowback when trying to sell a solar development on contaminated sites, his business’ specialty, in any other city. Voss said this is usually because the alternatives, such as industrial complexes or agricultural developments, are typically a less appealing alternative to communities. He said these are often what comes in to develop contaminated sites like the one on the northeast side.

Carbondale Planning Commission puts hold on Brightfields solar talk

The council previously voted to approve a special use permit for Brightfields in 2015, but the company has had to come back before the council for approval after that permit expired.

Residents of Carbondale’s northeast side have long been opposed to the development of the old Koppers site — they have repeatedly expressed concerns over the health and safety risks associated with disturbing the soil that has considerable levels of toxins including creosote from the treatment of railroad ties.

Meetings over the last two months alone have seen long lines of people wanting to speak out against the project with one planning commission meeting lasting until midnight.