Rochester Planning Board Chairman Arnold Johnson said on January 24 that the board would ask abutters to a proposed solar farm at 268 Mattapoisett Road whether or not they would prefer the board permit blasting through the ledge rock during construction or restrict activity to drilling and hammering.
The board doesn’t usually permit blasting, noted Johnson, and a concern from an abutter about a possible house foundation cracking should the rock material beneath the site be the same ledge upon which his house sits prompted Johnson to reconsider Clean Energy Collective’s preference for blasting.
“That’s the question here before the board,” said Johnson. “Do we want to say ‘no’ or do we want to say they can have that as an option?”
Board member Michael Murphy wondered, “It wouldn’t hurt to get neighbors’ opinions on blasting. I think they should have some kind of a say on whether or not we should allow blasting.”
The board agreed and planned to invite concerned neighbors to the next meeting.
In the meantime, board member Ben Bailey cautioned the developer to be careful during the tentative blasting to not crack the “Devil’s footprint” rock located at the site or the devil himself will escape through the crack.
Johnson commented that the board should be ready to close the public hearing by the second meeting in February, granted that the developer has everything squared away in time.
It was continued until February 14.
Also during the meeting, the board said enough was enough with abutters coming with complaints about screening around solar farms months after the start of and towards the very end of the Site Plan Review process.
It was one thing for abutter Linette Lander of 194 Mattapoisett Road to attend the meeting to talk about a trailer that was recently taken off the site, exposing a lack of screening from the sightline from her kitchen sink, but abutters who file a complaint about screening with the town at the last minute was something else entirely.
The board was just wrapping up the loose ends of this project when Lander brought it up during the meeting.
“I gotta say, I wish we saw you here a lot earlier,” said board member John DeMaggio. “I mean, we were about to close this [public hearing].”
But the trailer had only been removed a few days prior, said Dan Webb of Meadowatt.
Webb agreed that he would address Landers’ concerns immediately and would put whatever tree screening or fencing Landers preferred to alleviate the matter.
The board, feeling satisfied that the two parties could work it out together, decided to allow it to be noted in the plans once an agreement had been reached.
But as for the other complaint filed, Murphy had some tough words.
“If they’re gonna start nitpicking, there’s got to be a point when we say, why can’t you get along … talk, communicate?” Murphy said. “He had ample time to go talk to [Webb]…. Don’t come to me after … because that’s not gonna float with me.”
The public hearing was originally opened in September, noted board member Gary Florindo, who agreed with Murphy.
“Everybody has had ample time to come in,” said Florindo. “It’s too late to start going over all this stuff.”
This project has been no secret, said Johnson.
“The fact that people are coming in now in the eleventh hour just doesn’t work for me,” Johnson said.
The board signed off on the Certificate of Compliance on the spot.
In other matters, the board continued the public hearing for William Milka for his Site Plan Review for a small ground-mounted solar array in a former cranberry bog.
CivilTech, Inc. President Stuart Clarke discussed with the board a letter from the Mattapoisett River Valley Protection Advisory Committee subcommittee requesting a stipulation that all water runoff be contained inside the old bog so as not to contaminate one of Marion’s drinking water wells on the abutting land.
Clarke argued that there is nothing toxic within the panels, and fellow solar energy colleague Greg Carey concurred, saying he had submitted to the Town an information sheet that illustrates the contents of a solar panel, none of which are toxic.
“There’s really nothing there that’s dangerous. I mean its plastic and glass,” said Clarke.
Johnson and fellow board members agreed that the subcommittee was asking for “the impossible,” as board member John DeMaggio put it.
The board continued the public hearing until February 14 in order to view the information further.
The public hearing for Gary Mills for the Modification of an Approved Definitive Subdivision Plan for property located at Hartley Road was continued again until February 14 after a brief discussion. Johnson preferred to keep the public hearing open so the board can review a report after the town’s engineer has had time to review a few minor changes to the plan.
The next meeting of the Rochester Planning Board is scheduled for February 14 at 7:00 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.
By Jean Perry