Solar Array Proposed

With a full quorum on hand, Mattapoisett’s Planning Board confronted a few weighty items on their March 19 agenda.

First up was the issue of whether the Board would or could allow an easement through lots situated on 88 Aucoot Road. GAF Engineering submitted site plans which gave members the opportunity to visually review the matter. Property owners were requesting that an easement through lot 80A be permitted so that surrounding lots would have permanent access to the cove area. This easement request is in anticipation of the lot being sold. The current owner wants assurance that new owners would be legally bound to the easement rights in the future. GAF Engineering pointed out that throughout the area, other “common easements” were in place and this request should, therefore, be similarly acceptable. However, it became apparent during the dialogue that such an easement had the potential for creating a nonconforming lot at 80B. Chairman Tom Tucker expressed concern about the Board creating a nonconforming lot by allowing the easement as requested.

“I think we need to consult our legal counsel,” Tucker said. The Board agreed, and the request was tabled until the April 1 meeting, giving the Board sufficient time to prepare their response.

Next, the Board engaged in an informal discussion with Rick Charon of Charon Associates representing Blue Wave Capital, LLC. The development company’s website notes: “BlueWave Capital, LLC is a renewable energy project development and management company with a focus on solar photovoltaic development in New England, South Africa and the Caribbean.”

They proposed a solar installation at Tinkham Hill Road on property owned by the Mahoney family that would cover approximately 22 acres. Construction of the photovoltaic array would require tree removal, land grading and other environmental changes, noted Charon. Such changes are within the scope of work allowed on such property without Planning Board oversight. Charon said that the developers would be going through local Zoning Board of Appeals requirements, as well as state guidelines that oversee alternative energy generation projects.

Some discussion about increased water runoff once natural woodlands are modified took place. Charon said all of those issues and considerations would be addressed, including the planting of new grasses.

Board member Karen Field questioned Charon about who would benefit from the energy once it is produced and how it will help the town. Charon was not prepared to fully respond to this question. Regarding the users of the power, Charon said the arrangement is to be determined.

Other issues raised by the Board included the town’s responsibility to provide emergency response in case of a fire; the necessity, if any, for special fire suppression materials; and whether the power generation system would disrupt the peaceful environment which the abutters now enjoy. Charon responded that solar installations were innately resident-friendly projects not unlike overhead electrical power transmission and transformers presently used by the community. Access roads would allow fire trucks free movement around the site.

Charon will next go before the Zoning Board of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over the project. Board member Ron Merlo was in favor of the project, and the general consensus of the Board was favorable.

A final informal discussion involved the issue of a private roadway at the Appaloosa Lane development area. Brian Grady of GAF Engineering came before the Board to discuss the road in its current and future state plans. Also on hand was Barry Denham to share his expert insights.

The road is currently a “mud hole. It doesn’t work,” Denham said. Unfortunately for the two residences originally built there, the absence of further development work over the years means that the road has languished and is now in total disrepair.

Board member John Mathieu said that it is a private road and not the town’s responsibility. He insisted that the developers be required to state in their contracts with new buyers that the road will not be public.

“If the owner is going to fix it, let him fix it,” Mathieu said. “The town isn’t going to plow it or maintain it — it is a private road.”

Grady said it is the intent of the owner and developer to fix the road. Such repairs would make the remaining lots more attractive to potential buyers. Denham said he needed to be kept informed as work progressed on the road to insure it met basic standards and would work well for the current and future residents.

Merlo said that a letter would be drafted to the owner and developer mandating oversight of the road redesign and construction. The Board will prepare the letter stipulating various necessities clearly to Appaloosa’s owner and developer.

Minutes from previous meeting were approved, and Merlo wrapped up the evening by reminding the Board about the Open Space Committee meeting and public hearing on Wednesday, March 27.

By Marilou Newell

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