A proposed Middleboro Road solar farm that made its first appearance about a year ago is no longer just a speck on the horizon.
Developer Solar MA Project Management, LLC, has been meeting informally with the Rochester Planning Board for some weeks now and reappeared onto the public stage September 24 during the board’s regular meeting.
The large-scale solar project planned for Middleboro Road has undergone several tech reviews and the plan has been further vetted in preparation of a formal filing with the board before the New Year.
On behalf of the applicant, Pedro Rodrigues explained that an application was submitted about a year ago and then withdrawn in order to address a major issue with access and an ancient way that traverses the property.
“Now we feel like we are ready to resume with the application,” said Rodrigues.
The developer was able to acquire a large abutting lot to provide access to the site via Old Middleboro Road that will receive some road upgrades to widen it. As for the ancient way, some research has proven that no deeded rights have ever been recorded with the Registry of Deeds; therefore, the developer will be able to relocate that ancient way around the placement of its panels.
The project will need a filing with the Conservation Commission and with the Natural History and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) in addition to the filing with the Planning Board.
The NHESP had asked the developer to enter 50 acres of land into a conservation restriction, and in turn, the developer has offered 228 acres to be held by the Buzzards Bay Coalition.
In other business, SWEB Development, USA, LLC was back before the board for what Chairman Arnie Johnson said he had hoped would be the last time before closing the public hearing. Alas, the Conservation Commission meeting did not result in final approval and some changes to the plan had to be brought to the Planning Board.
Sarah Rosenblat explained that the developer has had to reduce its solar energy capacity as a result of a change in the wetland line. She said a full stormwater report would be finished by the end of the week.
Johnson handed Rosenblat a timeline for the remainder of the planning process and said, “This puts the ball squarely in your court – we wanted to close the public hearing today. We’d like to close it on [October 8]. You still have some work to do.”
Johnson ordered Rosenblat and her team to have all the remaining information submitted to the board’s peer-review engineer by noon on September 30 in time for the October 8 meeting. Johnson said he wants to close the public hearing then, and then schedule a special meeting for the last week of October in order to take a vote on a decision.
“That’s our goal, but its all on you,” Johnson said. “If you miss that deadline, it kicks it.”
“We will definitely make the thirtieth,” said Rosenblat, “come hell or high water.”
The hearing was continued until October 8.
In other matters, engineer Phil Cordeiro gave an overview of the 40R Rochester Crossroads project slated for the corner of Routes 28 and 58.
On behalf of Steen Realty and Development Corp, Cordeiro explained the layout of the four buildings, which contain 208 market value and affordable housing units, and three waivers pertaining to stormwater management the applicant will be requesting.
The engineer, developer, members of the board, and the town planner have held a succession of informal technical discussions leading up to an eventual filing with the Planning Board in the imminent future.
The project will have to file a Notice of Intent with the Conservation Commission, and also work with the Water Commissioners in order to finalize an agreement with Wareham for 45,000 gallons per day. The project will also have to file for permits with various state agencies as well.
Johnson said in addition to a peer-review engineer, the project would require a traffic study, which Cordeiro concurred would also be required. Developer Ken Steen said he would have a traffic study in hand within a couple weeks.
Also during the meeting, after several meetings discussing unfinished landscaping at the IGS (formerly Melink) solar project on Snipatuit Road, it was finally time for Johnson to propose a bond taking and put the landscaping security bond out to bid.
“And add a tax lien on the property,” added Johnson.
The board made the motion and voted in favor of Johnson’s suggestion.
“We’ve had enough,” said Johnson.
The public hearing for a Special Residential Permit for Repurpose Properties, LLC for an age-restricted residential development off Rounseville Road was continued until October 8 at the applicant’s request.
The next meeting of the Rochester Planning Board is scheduled for October 8 at 7:00 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.
Rochester Planning Board
By Jean Perry