It's time to find a creative way to save this amazing piece of land from development and preserve it for future generations ["Who Will Get the Land Around Burlington College?" November 5]. The City of Burlington needs to "build up" in areas that are already developed rather than utilize the last of our open spaces. Beautiful landscapes are part of what makes Vermont special, and stunning lake views make Burlington a place where everyone wants to be.
Selling the land to save the college is a short-term financial stopgap measure at the 11th hour. A onetime payment for a substantial piece of the property won't get Burlington College above water. We need a long-term vision for this land. The college should look to projects that not only preserve the general feel of the landscape but also generate income, such as an art colony or a resort. Farrell's plan for the property consists of 21 houses, 75 units of senior housing, 60 units of affordable apartments, a three-story building and 300 units of market-rate housing. This will result in potentially 500 to 800 more cars coming and going out of that location every day. Residents of the New North End are going to be greatly affected by the increased traffic.
The lack of commitment from environmental organizations and the Burlington Conservation Board is disheartening. I hope Burlington College, Mayor Miro Weinberger and the city of Burlington will reconsider the 60-day deadline and save this lakefront campus from being transformed into one of the largest housing developments in Queen City history.
Solar Not So Simple
Kevin J. Kelley has a sore case of the Pollyannas ["Here Comes the Sun," November 12]. Calling photovoltaic solar panels "clean" and "renewable" is like declaring recycling cola cans "sustainable." Both require massive input of fossil-fuel energies to make them work. Photovoltaics still require a nonrenewable backup source of energy available at all times in case of low sunlight or high demand. All the installation, maintenance and shipping is done by vehicles powered by fossil fuels.
Kelley also fails to address the numerous rare earth metals used in the panel's construction. Rare earth metals are mainly mined and refined in China, which does not regulate either activity. The Chinese government also tried to use its near monopoly on rare earth metals as a political weapon. This article is contemptible for adding an environmental narrative to what is simply a sweet tax break for homeowners to lower their energy bills — a tax break which is financed by all, even those who do not own a home and therefore cannot benefit from it.
A Makeover for Bernie
[Re "Here Comes the Sun," November 12]: Thanks for the big picture on going and growing solar in Vermont, although you missed what makes this movement meaningful on the ground: Solar engineer Nik Ponzio and his wife, Li Ling Young, a master techie on energy efficiency, have spent more than two years documenting the conversion of their classic Burlington ranch-style house, wrenching it out of the 1950s straight into the 21st century. On their innovative blog, energyfreakshow.com, they chronicle the challenge of making our homes as green as the mountains and hills that define us. Covering topics from water heating to heat pumps, insulation to lighting, transportation to conservation, they share "the living laboratory we call home" as a working model Vermont needs to embrace — the sooner, the better. Solar may be the start of this journey, but it's only the first step.
Thank God for Bells
Seems to me that the sound of cars going up and down the street was much louder than, and even drowned out, the sound of the bells ["Bells Over Burlington: A Church's Chimes Get Mixed Reviews," November 5]. Unfortunately, there are too many non-spiritual people living in close approximation to the church. In Israel, Italy, France and Germany, we often stopped to listen to the bells ringing at the top of the steeple. It gave everyone peace of mind. Too bad the people in Burlington's Five Sisters neighborhood cannot even pause momentarily three times a day to thank God for all the good things in their lives. I say let the bells continue to ring!
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Plugging the Union
I enjoyed reading Kevin Kelley and Kathryn Flagg's article on Vermont's burgeoning solar sector ["Here Comes the Sun," November 12]. Next time, they should highlight International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 300, a 1,100-member labor group based in South Burlington. IBEW Local 300 has schooled several hundred electricians and apprentices in solar since launching the state's first year-round training in 2008. Local 300's vision — fostered before green energy became super-sexy — enabled companies like SunCommon, which has a longtime relationship with unionized employer Peck Electric for licensed installation services, to grow exponentially with Vermont electricians who earn a livable wage. Seven Days' Ken Picard wrote about the union's efforts in ["Interest Heats Up Among Electrical Workers to Learn Solar Energy Installation," October 21, 2009]. Since then, the IBEW built a wind-training simulator complete with a mock turbine climbing tower in Williston.
As a Vermont expat, I'm proud that the state is a green-energy trailblazer nationally. The success story, however, is incomplete when unionized craftspeople get short shrift after being on technology's bleeding edge for so long.
Matthew A.M. Lash
Lash is the director of business development for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103.
David Scherr, the author of last week's letter to the editor titled "Winner Takes All," should have been identified as the former chair of the Burlington Democratic Party.