Solar Farm Again Dominates Agenda

The Solar Farm Array planned for Tinkham Hill Road and adjacent to Shady Oak Drive and North Street was again on the agenda having been continued from the last Mattapoisett Conservation Commission meeting. A small but concerned contingent of neighbors was on hand to ask questions. Their questions, however, were mainly not within the purview of the Commission.

The site will contain 12,000 solar panels over 23 acres of a 25-acre site. The land is privately owned by Dennis Mahoney and has been leased to Blue Wave LLC for the next 25 years. Trevor Hardy of Blue Wave fielded the majority of the questions from the Commission, which focused primarily on construction methods and materials. Since the scope of the work proposed for the site will not impact any wetlands, the Commission approved a Request for Determination of Applicability with a few stipulations to insure the deforestation remains within the planned acreage. Commission Conservation Agent Elizabeth Leidhold also wanted some assurance that buffering materials may be used if necessary to protect the streams and a vernal pool on North Street.

Richard Charon of Charon & Associates was also in attendance as representative to the applicants, along with five staff members from Blue Wave. The assembled learned that the 8-foot black chain link fence that will surround the solar field will be placed 165 feet from abutters’ property lines. Solar collectors and associated equipment such as inverters will be placed 275 feet from the nearest home.

Diane Ortega, a non-abutting homeowner on Shady Oak Drive, asked questions ranging from fire suppression capabilities of the town in the event of a fire at the site and what type of cleaning agents might be used on the panels. She was assured by Charon that the same skill sets used for handling a substation fire (such as the substation located on Crystal Springs Road) would be employed at the solar farm. Hardy of Blue Wave said that there wouldn’t be any cleaning of the panels, since rainwater would be sufficient. He also stated that there is a “restoration clause” in the agreement with the owner ensuring the property would be substantially returned to its natural state if Blue Wave pulled out. Hardy also stated that the project will take between 60 and 90 days and that all the clearing will take place at once.

Jeff Kocur, another non-abutting resident of Shady Oak Drive, registered alarm at not having been notified by the town of the project.

“I haven’t heard anything except from neighbors,” he said.

He was told by the Commission that residents 300 feet from the site would be receiving a notice this week for the April 18 meeting. Kocur felt, however, that it wasn’t sufficient time to prepare. He also attempted to ask questions pursuant to aesthetics and land use. Again, those questions were rebuffed as not within the limits of the Commission’s oversight.

Blue Wave has set up a meeting for April 15 at 7pm at the Knights of Columbus Hall inviting the community to join them in an informal discussion of the project. The meeting, however, will not be part of the town’s public record. The next Mattapoisett public meeting is with the Zoning Board of Appeals on April 18 at 6pm at the Town Hall. The applicant is requesting a change in the zoning status of the site to Commercial in order for this private business plan to move forward on the private parcel.

Next on the agenda was D&B Quality Construction coming before the Commission in a continuation of hearing on nonconforming buildings and gray water issues at 15 Cedarcrest Avenue. Owner Stacey Marino was not present but through her representative D&B was asking for guidance considering the costs associated with fixing all the problems on the property. Building Inspector Andrew Bobola suggested that “all the bad things could go away” if the applicant simply removed the plumbing and water supply and had the existing electrical inspected. If this were done, then his office would be able to permit the shed in spite of its proximity to neighboring property. The final hearing is scheduled for April 22.

The Mattapoisett YMCA came before the Commission and received approval to plant grasses in the dune areas for erosion control. This will help with maintaining a buffer zone between the driveway and shore.

Also receiving approval was the Highway Department’s Barry Denham for repairs on West Hill Road for approximately 1,600 linear feet that has deteriorated. This work will also include a 150-foot roadway edge drain on the north side.

Allen Decker of the Buzzards Bay Coalition then came forward for an informal discussion regarding the application of grant monies. But Commission member Bob Rogers felt the need to recuse himself from the conversation. Rogers felt that the informal discussion could have been put formally on the agenda and given full public examination. Due to a timing issue, however, Chairman Peter Newton stated that the Commission was within in rights to have a discussion versus a hearing at this time. Once Rogers had left the room, Decker was heard.

The Buzzards Bay Coalition on behalf of the Conservation Commission will be applying for grant monies to help offset expenses associated with public lands located on Acushnet Road along the river north of 195 and across the bogs formally owned by Decas Cranberries. Decker spoke to why the Water and Sewer Department could not be the applicant and the appropriateness of the Conservation Commission taking the lead. A sum of approximately $250,000 would supplement the $75,000 already received from U.S. Fish & Wildlife. A combination of grants and private donations will help to ensure the town will not spend its own funds to prepare and maintain the site for public recreational uses.

Commission members then again discussed the policy on public filings with Conservation and other boards concurrently versus in sequence. Bobola reminded the Commission that during his tenure, the manner in which applications are handled has worked well and without unnecessary delay. Rogers repeated his concern that Mattapoisett was possibly causing undue delays. Newton will review the matter with other board chairs to further review if any changes are needed.

Liedholm then gave her report, which included the announcement of a public meeting titled “Conservation and Recreation” on April 25, 7-9pm, at Old Hammondtown School. The meeting is one of two the Mattapoisett Open Space Committee will be holding with the community to discuss near-term and long-range goals from land, water, and habitat protection, parks, playing fields, bike paths, and a variety of other outdoor spaces for recreation.

The next Conservation Commission meeting is scheduled for April 22.

By Marilou Newell

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