The Westerly Sun

RICHMOND — Richard Jurczyk was relaxing in his Heaton Orchard Road home on Wednesday afternoon and about to take a nap when he heard heavy equipment that sounded a little too close. 

“I knew there was some activity going on over there,” he said. “I didn’t think much of it, but then the noise got louder and so I said ‘I’d better check on that.’”

Jurczyk’s property borders a commercial solar array built by Green Development LLC. A neighboring property owner had given the company permission to log, but Jurczyk had not been notified. 

Some of the logging, it turned out, had been done on his land, and by the time he found the source of the noise, he was confronted with a large pile of cut trees — his trees.

The equipment operator admitted his mistake, apologized, and returned to cutting trees on the neighbor’s land.

“He went back to work. He’d already done the damage on our property. He said he was sorry,” Jurczyk said.

The logging incident was just the latest in a series of problems that Jurczyk and his wife, Carol, have experienced since the facility, which has 17,000 solar panels, was built in 2017 on 23 acres of John and Cindy Duncan’s Harvest Acres Farm on Kingstown Road (Route 138).

The easternmost array (the facility is divided into two sections) borders the Jurczyks’ property. The problems began in January 2018, when runoff from heavy rains flowed off the bare ground beneath the solar panels and transformed their wooded yard into a large pond.

The trees at the back of their yard are the only screen between their land and a wall of large boulders that serves as a buffer between the two properties.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management stepped in and directed Green Development to install new stormwater mitigation measures such as swales and to plant vegetation under the panels.

Jurczyk said he did not experience flooding this winter and believed the problems with his neighbor were over. “They were conducting their business over there, I conduct my business over here,” he said.

With his property damaged again, however, Jurczyk filed a police report to document the incident.

Richmond Chief of Police Elwood Johnson confirmed that a complaint had been made. “It appeared to involve the border end of his property and that four trees had been felled by a neighbor,” he said. “This is a civil boundary matter.”

Green Development spokesman Bill Fisher said the company was aware of the incident and had contacted Jurczyk.

“We have apologized to Mr. Jurczyk for inadvertently cutting some trees down that were clearly on his property,” he said. “We had a crew down there clearing dead wood and trees because of the gypsy moth kill that has really devastated the area. We work with DEM to ensure the appropriate trees are tagged for cutting. In this instance, one of our employees went beyond the designated cutting area.”

Fisher said the company had offered to clean up the site and even replant it. “We want to work with Mr. Jurczyk and have offered to clean his property where the cutting took place and properly replant it. Again, we’ve made a mistake and we want to fix it,” he said.

Jurczyk said that he and his wife had not decided what they would do about the logging, but they want the timber to remain on their property.

“All I know is right now they can stay there until I decide what to do with it,” he said. “They’re my trees stacked up there and we’ll get to that at a future date.”


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