Solar Farm Project Remains in the Dark

Visibly disappointed, Dale and Laura Briggs, the applicants for a variance to construct a solar farm off County Road, left the Marion Town House on June 26 shaking their heads in perplexity after ZBA Chairman Eric Peirce told the Briggses that the board will have to familiarize itself with the new solar bylaw and try to apply it to the new project plans.

The Briggses on May 28 submitted a second, slightly altered plan to the ZBA, and according to Peirce, the board was getting its first glance at the plan and still needs to do some more “homework” before it can render a decision.

“Whether we think solar is a wonderful thing,” said Peirce, “We have to work it into the bureaucracy.”

Some abutters in attendance spoke in favor of the project.

“I’m in favor,” said Joseph Barboza. “He’s a good neighbor.” Others said they thought it would be good for the Town, and one offered the board photographs of the site, which the board willingly accepted.

The engineer for the solar project told the board that he felt the project would actually be a less-desirable project if the plans were to adhere to the new bylaw. Setbacks would shift the project closer to abutters to the west.

The board silently flipped through papers, looking through pages of the bylaw to find the section on setbacks before setting the papers aside.

“It may be fine,” said Peirce. “I just can’t quote [the bylaw] off the top of my head.”

Planning Board member Eileen Marum, present at the meeting, spoke in favor of applying the previous zoning bylaw since the original plan was submitted before the new bylaw was adopted.

“Our perception is that original application is done and gone,” said Peirce. At least that was the board’s opinion, he said. “The courts can fight me.”

The board has until August 28 – ninety days after the applications was submitted – to either issue or deny the variance.

After the public hearing was closed, the board tossed around dates for the next meeting to address the Briggs’ application.

“I don’t want to put it out that far,” said board member Betsey Dunn in response to a suggested meeting date for August. Board member John Sylvia commented that he would not be attending due to a prior engagement.

“Then they can’t sue you because your name’s not on it,” joked Peirce.

The board set a date to issue a decision for July 17.

Also at the meeting, the board approved the special permit for Brew Fish – the former Wave Restaurant & Bar – to affix awnings that would have lettering, technically making them signs.

“Off the cuff, I don’t see any issues,” said Peirce.

Board member Bob Alves called approving the special permit a “no-brainer,” adding that the awnings appear “tasteful.”

The board approved the special permit that evening.

The application for Tabor Academy was continued until September 25 in order to seek advisement from town counsel.

The next meeting of the Marion Zoning Board of Appeals is July 17 at 7:30 pm at the Marion Town House.

By Jean Perry


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