Fence Fix Will Not Set Precedent

            The Rochester Planning Board has improvised in finding an amenable process to the correction of Neck Road Solar’s screening to Neck Road.

            During the board’s Zoom-only meeting during the February 13 snowstorm, Planning Board Chairman Arnie Johnson explained that upon realizing exposure of the framing of the project to an abutting area, the town’s building inspector had put a cease-and-desist order on the field project. Johnson credited Neck Road Solar for an immediate response but noted that the top of the rack remained a little higher than the berm in one area.

            After a meeting with Town Planner Nancy Durfee and the applicants’ representatives, Johnson concluded the best solution is to have the applicants complete the field project and then have the fence adjusted to accommodate the final height to achieve the required screening.

            “Until the panels are actually installed, we really don’t know how high the fence needs to be,” said Johnson, who will plan a site visit for the board, after which the fence will be altered in accordance with the board’s findings.

            Another modification to the board’s prior approval of the project will request that the decision be amended to allow dual use (farming) under the solar panels.

            Vice Chairman John DeMaggio said he agrees with the current action but sees a potential problem with future solar applications using the board’s plan as a precedent to bypass the town bylaw requiring that screening first be set up for the sake of a project’s abutters before actual construction.

            Asked by DeMaggio if the matter gives him concern, Johnson said no and cited the thorough work done by Neck Road Solar.

            “I just want to make sure the record shows that the board is not approving this solar (project) to go forward without full screening,” said DeMaggio. “The applicant did their best on full screening, and they found they had an issue and they fixed it right away so, just in case any other applicants out there are listening, you know, this isn’t setting precedence for anything.”

            Johnson agreed that the board does not want its decision to be setting precedence “because that is a major component of our bylaw.”

            Members present for the entire Zoom-only meeting were Johnson, DeMaggio, Marc Rousseau Jr. and Chris Silveira. Member Ben Bailey joined the call after an ANR decision.

            Before Bailey joined the meeting, the board approved an ANR application filed by Alan Cervelli for property located on Hartley Road (Map 35, Lot 42) located “half the field across from the Rochester Grange,” according to Johnson. With only four members, Johnson let the applicant decide whether to allow him to vote rather than recuse himself.

            Project representative Walter Hartley described the property as just under 6 acres, “with a tiny, little bit of limited wetlands quite far away from the buildable area.”

            Being divided into two lots of just under 3 acres each and each with 290 feet of frontage along the street with approximately 295 feet at the setback. One is completely situated in the upland and the other contains approximately 10 square feet of wetland, according to Hartley.

            Hartley was brought back on the call to address a small laundry list of clerical exercises required to properly carry out the approval. Hartley assured the board that the matters in question had already been addressed.

            The ANR filed by Marc Wilson for property located on Bishop Road, Map 43A 72, Lot 1, and Map 43A 71, Lot 2 was withdrawn without prejudice.

            The board continued two public hearings to February 27.

            First, the board voted to approve an extension to February 27 for a Site Plan Review application for a self-storage facility project filed by JPF Development, LLC, at Kings Highway and Cranberry Highway (Route 28), Map 17, Lots 30, 31A, 55 and 56.

            The applicant proposes to develop approximately 15 acres of land as a self-storage facility comprised of seven storage buildings and one office building at a site located in the Industrial District.

            The board also continued the application of Bluewave Solar dba BWC Snows Pond, LLC, applied for a Special Permit and Site Plan Review for property located at 0 Cushman Road, Map 33, Lots 41 A-O to February 27.

            The representative from Weston & Sampson had a presentation ready but lack of attendance would have required the disqualification of another board member, leaving the application without the potential approval votes needed to carry.

            The applicant proposes to develop an approximately 2.39 MW, DC single-axis tracking photovoltaic solar array including DC-coupled battery-energy storage at a site located no Cushman Road in the RE/AG (Residential/Agricultural) District, Mattapoisett River Valley Watershed, and Groundwater Protection District.

            Johnson reported to the members that a recent meeting of the Public Safety Building Committee produced the agreement to send out a RFQ for a project manager to oversee development of a pre-engineered Fire Station.

            “We have some drill-down costs,” said Johnson, noting that voters at Town Meeting moved over $50,000 from the expired Feasibility Study Committee. He said Town Administrator Glenn Cannon informed him that there is also COVID relief money left over that will no longer be available after the 2024 calendar year.

            Silveira reported that work is ongoing with the Bylaw Subcommittee.

            The board voted to approve the Planning Department’s Annual Report for FY24.

            Johnson informed the board that it has received funding from the Capital Planning Committee to hire Field Engineering to review its Rules and Regulations and also for a needed update to the town’s zoning map. The board voted to enter into those contracts.

            The board approved payment vouchers for Fileguard (January storage) $9.75; Hazard Mitigation Plan $446.88; Master Plan Workshop $42.63; Dropbox (annual subscription) $127.37 and Amazon (town planner’s desk) $559.99.

            The next meeting of the Rochester Planning Board is scheduled for Tuesday, February 27, at Rochester Town Hall, 1 Constitution Way.

Rochester Planning Board

By Mick Colageo

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