Abutter Happier with Solar Plan

            Two weeks after Sarah Stearns of Beals and Thomas, Inc. presented on behalf of Hingham-based Renewable Energy Partners, LLC in its application for Special Permits to construct a solar array at 109 Neck Road, the intense scrutiny from board members and abutters alike gave way to a better feeling all around during the Tuesday night’s meeting of the Rochester Planning Board.

            In the October 12 continued public hearing, Stearns thanked the Planning Board for participating in a site visit earlier in the day that she considered “very productive.”

            First, representatives visited a similar canal solar-canopy project at Eldridge bogs, then went to the site on Neck Road where a sample panel was placed. When gathered for the hearing, board members had no concerns or questions.

            At that point, abutter Zachary Souza, 118 Neck Road, asked about the status of screening of the project.

            Planning Board Chairman Arnie Johnson told Souza that the consensus at this point for solar seen from Neck Road is to create a condition in an Order of Conditions to allow the facility to be constructed first, then look to see with abutter input if and what screening is necessary.

            “I know you and your neighbor talked about your view scape,” said Johnson. “We all agreed that all the racking, all the steel would be painted a flat black so there would be no reflection and we wanted it up.”

            Johnson said that it is too early to successfully decide on vegetation. “We wouldn’t know what type or where to put them,” he said, telling Souza the board plans to conduct another site visit when the effects of the project can fully be realized by the board and project abutters.

            “They are going to be proposing some screening from Snipatuit Pond at two points … on the next revision of the plans,” said Johnson. The intent is that abutters would not be able to see the ground-mounted array or the canopy.

            Souza called the plan “fair” and said he is in favor of it. He noted, however, that the sample panel is not painted flat black at this time. “It will be,” said Johnson. “Good point, but it will be.” Once Souza confirmed that the sample panel is located at the nearest edge of the project and not somewhere in the middle, he said, “Speaking for myself, I’m very pleased with that decision.”

            Johnson said when entering the area there was significant distance between the visitors to the site and the panels. He said there was some reflection from the sun because the panels are made of steel. “Painting them black would dampen that effect,” he said.

            In answer to abutter Tim Batchelder, 155 Neck Road, who asked via the chat function, “The blue bibbons noting the line of clearing have been in place prior to the last Planning Board meeting. If I recall from the last meeting that the amount of clearing to be done was actually scaled back. Is there a plan to put out new clearing ribbons to show the proposed new line of clearing?” The applicant’s representative said new flagging will be placed.

            Johnson said a new revised plan will be submitted prior to the next Planning Board meeting on October 26 that will reflect all the changes in the plan. With that, the hearing was continued to Tuesday, October 26.

            The draft decision for Special Permit for Cushman Road Solar, LLC will be addressed at the board’s October 26 meeting.

            In her report, Town Planner Nancy Durfee said material costs are slowing projects. Johnson said that board members will conduct some site visits. She also took the opportunity to commend Administrative Assistant Victoria D’Antoni on an excellent performance to date.

            Johnson said he found it refreshing that the Planning Board was approached by owners at Arch of the Meadow regarding planned reworking of the function facility’s entrance. The downside, he said, is that retail and classes on the site that were conditionally endorsed were occurring without evidence of compliance. The board has issued a timeline that, if disregarded, could lead to a cease-and-desist order.

            No Planning Board-related items will appear on the October 18 Town Meeting Warrant, but Johnson said he hopes some projects will make it onto the warrant for next spring’s Town Meeting.

            Site visits will cease after October 15 and resume in April 2022.

            Johnson told the meeting that Town Counsel Blair Bailey set up a meeting with the Buzzards Bay Coalition to discuss illegal work that was done.

            The Planning Board is scheduled to meet only once a month in November and December on the second Tuesday of each month. The next meeting of the Rochester Planning Board is scheduled for Tuesday, October 26, at 7:00 pm.

Rochester Planning Board

By Mick Colageo

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