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Conn. Firm Proposes $9M Development in Guildhall

August 24, 2011
GUILDHALL–A Connecticut-based corporation has proposed construction here of a two-phase, $9 million facility that would generate its own heat and power and enable the raising of organic vegetables and fish. The projected site is a 179-acre parcel of recently logged land fronting on the western side of Vermont Route 102 between the Klinefelter and McGrath properties.

The town Board of Selectmen was briefed on the proposal at their July meeting by James Homer, vice-president of Greener Living LLC of New Preston, Conn. Homer, one of three owners of the company, told the board that if the company gains approval to build in Guildhall, it will move its entire operation to Vermont.

The first phase of the project would see $7.5 million spent to construct 27 30-foot by 90-foot greenhouses and three additional buildings of comparable size to house a combined heat and power (CHP) plant, offices and space for shipping and handling. The second phase, to be built within five years, would add 20 greenhouses and three residential units for use of company officials. The second phase would cost an estimated $1.5 million.

The combined heat and power plant would consist of a biomass-fueled steam boiler with heat exchangers to power a turbine, which would in turn power an electric generator. The closed loop system would generate one megawatt of electricity, the excess of which would be sold to the grid. It would also produce 15 million BTU's of hot water or low pressure steam with the single boiler. The residential units would be passive solar, built into the side of the slope of Duren Mountain, approximately mid-lot. Although expecting to burn wood as the primary fuel, the CHP would also be capable of burning household trash as it would be built with electrostatic air scrubbers in place.

The aquaponics facility would produce primarily tomatoes in the vegetable greenhouses and tilapia in the fish farm and would initially employ 10 to 15 people.

Of the 179 acres in the parcel, approximately one-third would be developed, primarily in the center of the lot. Most of the parcel's road frontage is considered wetlands by the state and the back portion of the lot contains a fairly large boulder-strewn area just below the steeply rising face of Duren Mountain.

The selectboard approved a motion giving tacit approval to the project, pending the outcome of any zoning changes that might be needed. Town zoning administrator Patricia Rogers indicated at the Aug. 22 selectmen's meeting that she had been in touch with the Vermont Department of Agriculture, which is currently reviewing the paperwork given to the board by James Homer. If the project is deemed agricultural in its entirety, no zoning changes would be necessary as agricultural use is already allowed on that parcel. However, due to the generation of power, the Vermont Public Service Board may have to grant permits, and an Act 250 permit may have to be granted by the state. Rogers said that the state agriculture department would issue a written opinion concerning the project, but had no definite timeline for their decision.

The developers claim to have spent two years researching the viability of the project and say they have a combined 60 years experience in developing, designing, and building research and development, biomedical and sustainable housing projects.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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