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CLE ELUM - A group opposing construction of a proposed solar reserve in the Teanaway has filed a lawsuit aimed at blocking it.

An attorney for James Brose, chairman of the Citizens Alliance for a Rural Teanaway (CART), filed the request for an injunction and declaratory relief against Teanaway Solar Reserve LLC (TSR) in Kittitas County Superior Court on Wednesday.

The request alleges that the proposed solar reserve, planned for a site four miles northeast of Cle Elum, would violate protective neighborhood covenants and private property rights.

According to a release issued by CART, the lawsuit maintains that TSR's application "includes a critical transmission and access corridor off of Loping Lane in the Teanaway."

"However, this 22-acre lot is part of a 2003 subdivision protected by covenants that require that the land be used ‘for residential use only, with no commercial purposes of any kind permitted . . . '"

According to the release, the lawsuit, "if successful would effectively block" TSR's current plans.

The lawsuit also names Morton Land and Timber Co. (Morton Timber) as a defendant. According to Brose, who owns a neighboring lot, Morton Timber purchased the 22-acre lot adjoining his last June and is leasing it to TSR.

Brose said Morton Timber is a Wyoming company whose president is John Rudey, the New York businessman who also owns the American Forest Land Co. (AFLC) which is leasing land to TSR for the solar project.

The lot in question is lot No. 2 of three 22-acre lots, said Brose, a Mill Creek resident. He and his wife plan to retire on the property, he said.

"I'm No. 3 (of the three lots)," Brose said. "When we bought the property there were specific covenants which stated there could only be single family residences and you could operate a business in the house but not outside the house."

The 22-acre lot bought by Morton Timber "gave them (TSR) access to the power lines because AFLC did not have any property that had access to the power lines," Brose said. "They bought it specifically for access."

Brose said Howard Trott, managing director of TSR, had spent "two or three hours with my wife and I and a few of our adjacent neighbors. This was in the early part of December. We never heard anything more from him as a result of that visit. They did make a few modifications of the proposed plan as a result of the visit, but nowhere near what we wanted if, indeed, it was going to take place."

In a prepared statement issued Wednesday, TSR said, "We are aware of a potential lawsuit and are evaluating the substance and merits of the claim at this time. Until we have had a chance to do so we have no additional response. We have, however, carefully reviewed all the comments and concerns previously submitted to the county regarding our project and have fully addressed them in our supplemental CUP (conditional use permit) application and SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) materials filed on Monday, Feb. 22."

Brose's legal action came just one day after TSR, a company of private investors, held a public meeting outlining changes in the plans it had made in response to public concerns.

Those moves included a reduction in the footprint of the project, changes aimed at reducing visual impact, the creation of a large corridor through the middle to allow for potential wildlife migration, avoidance of all wetlands and a reduction of impervious surfaces. The plans say that habitat permanently impacted by the project will be mitigated at a 2-to-1 ratio. The company also included a detailed plan for decommissioning and restoring the site if and when that becomes appropriate. It also presented a plan to establish a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) comprised of members of state agencies and conservation groups to guide vegetation mitigation and management decisions.

As envisioned, the proposed solar reserve would be designed to produce 75 megawatts of direct current power, enough to supply about 45,000 households. It currently is the largest solar project ever proposed in the Pacific Northwest. The project, which would involve installing 400,000 photovoltaic panels.

The company says the project, expected to cost between $300 and $350 million, will generate $97.5 million in purchases of goods and services in Kittitas County during construction and will create 225 full-time union wage jobs during construction and 35 permanent jobs after the solar facility is operational.

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