Planning Board Toggles Between Meetings

            Mattapoisett’s Planning Board has been busy, not only with high-profile construction projects, but also with securing a new Planning Board administrator/planner and putting the finishing touches on a new solar bylaw.

            The September 30 meeting of the board found its members transitioning into executive session to interview two candidates vying for the vacant part-time position in the Planning office. It is unknown which of the two candidates, one from Worcester and the other from Marion, was preferred by the Planning Board or if the board reached a conclusion. The next step would be for the Select Board to interview the candidate(s).

            The board also met to discuss the final drafting of a new solar bylaw. Member Janice Robbins has taken the lead on drafting the sometimes very technical language required in a bylaw governing commercial solar arrays. Robbins worked extensively over many months with an outside consultant and with the town’s legal counsel to ensure the verbiage meets regulations at the state and federal levels while also satisfying local considerations.

            Time is of the essence given that the board proposes to have the bylaw added to the Fall Special Town Meeting Warrant. Town meeting is scheduled for November 8.

            On October 1, a special Planning Board meeting was held to hammer out any remaining issues or concerns related to the bylaw, and to ascertain if other board members were in agreement with the draft.

            Robbins said that counsel had made edits to the document but nothing that changed the “substance” of the bylaw. The bylaw will also stipulate that the Planning Board will be the final local authority over such construction projects.

            With the advancement in solar array designs, the board discussed how to regulate canopy arrays. The members wondered if they could enforce site plan review if a canopy was proposed over an existing parking lot, for instance. Robbins pointed out that the new bylaw will prohibit arrays in undeveloped areas. The board ultimately thought that a canopy array would require site plan review. Definitions will be added that describe large and medium-sized arrays, and both will require site plan review.

            The board also tackled language for specific situations such as temporary suspension of operation and grandfathering. On that last point, Robbins said that most if not all of the proposed area planned for solar operation off Randall Lane would be prohibited by the new bylaw. But earlier discussions with the developer and the board on this matter allowed the project to move through the permitting process. Robbins said, “In all fairness to the applicants,” given the amount of time and money that has been spent, allowing them to move forward should be granted. Other board members agreed.

            A public hearing on the bylaw will be set for Monday, October 18, at 7:00 pm.

            The October 4 regular meeting of the board found the membership deep into the Randall Lane solar project when engineering consultant Beals and Thomas, Inc., representing applicants Randall Lane, LLC, once again came before the board. While many outstanding points have been addressed, several still remained, causing the applicant to request an extension until December 7 and a continuance until October 18.

            The matters pending include clarification that the town’s consultant, BETA Engineering, has weighed in on all matters related to the project – a checklist is needed; whether all matters related to the new flood plain bylaw have been addressed; acceptance of the plan by Mass Wildlife Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program; and whether the approval of an ANR for a four-lot subdivision triggers the requirement that Randall Lane be made compliant to subdivision roadway standards.

            Robbins insisted that the road is not substantial enough for the proposal before the board or for any future use at the end of the multi-decade lease between the landowners and the solar provider. It was also discovered that a written sign-off by the Fire Department was not in hand, only verbal approval.

            Robbins also asked the Beals and Thomas team to ask the applicant to help the Planning Board with final review of the voluminous filing to further ensure all matters have been thoroughly documented by enlisting a consultant for that task. The applicant’s consultant agreed to pursue it with their clients.

            In other matters, the release of a single lot and covenant for Snowfield Estates was continued until October 18, as was site plan final review and release of surety agreements for Eldridge Estates.

            The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Planning Board is scheduled for Monday, October 18, at 7:00 pm.

Mattapoisett Planning Board

By Marilou Newell

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