RMS Drawing Closer to Solar

            The Rochester Planning Board Tuesday night took the proposal for a large-scale, solar array at Rochester Memorial School several steps closer to approval.

            The board approved the requirement that the developer, Solect Energy Development, post a five-year, $38,000 bond to ensure that proper landscaping and other maintenance will be paid for, should the developer walk away from the project within the five years.

            Planning Board Chairman Arnold Johnson noted, however, that the developer is still on the hook for maintaining the project for life. Other measures will be taken, should something requiring emergency maintenance occur past the five-year mark. The town, he said, would tax-lien the property and go out to bid for someone to fix such a problem.

            Additionally, the panel voted that Solect Energy Development post a $270,000 decommissioning bond. But it also approved all five waivers the developer was requesting with approval of the project’s Special Permit and Site Plan Review application.

            The board will now work on a draft decision, Johnson told project representative Jose Pacheco of Green Seal Environmental, Inc. The panel will discuss the draft at its next meeting, then render a decision at the meeting after that.

            The canopy-mounted large-scale solar photo-voltaic system will be built over the rear parking lot of the Rochester Memorial School. This installation will measure 222 feet long by 438 feet wide, be supported by seven columns and will be built on 13.7 acres, Pacheco said in a previous hearing.

            The work will take place within a Residential/Agricultural District, a Groundwater Protection District and inside the Mattapoisett River Valley Watershed. Pacheco said he has yet to receive a letter of endorsement from the MRV Water District. Johnson noted that letter will likely be received before the board’s decision vote.

            The board began the public meeting by approving the amended special permits for two solar, photo-voltaic system installation permits for projects on Featherbed Lane and Braley Hill Road. It then reappointed Gary Florindo as its representative on the Soil Board.

            The subject of the town’s evolving Access to Town Counsel policy led to a suggestion from board member Ben Bailey, who has vocally objected to the policy language that only the chairperson of a board, not its members, are allowed to pose questions to Town Counsel through the town administrator.

            Johnson noted the next interdepartmental meeting that will talk on the policy won’t be for another six months. Bailey, nonetheless, aired his current proposal. He said the new Town Counsel, Mead, Talerman and Costa, LLC, should submit regular accounting of the costs of its legal service to see how much the law firm’s legal advice is costing the town.

            “We pay the $8,000 a month,” Bailey said. “I want us to see what we are paying for.” He then reiterated his main complaint against the current policy as written, that Town Counsel attorney Jay Talerman said allowing board members such access to legal opinions would “create chaos.”

            Bailey likened Talerman’s response to treating board members like himself like children. “I want to know where our money’s going now,” Bailey said. “And I’d like to see an accounting monthly.”

            The Rochester Planning Board’s next regular meeting, which will feature a hearing on zoning bylaw changes, will be held on Tuesday, April 11, at 7:00 pm at the Town Hall, 1 Constitution Way.

Rochester Planning Board

By Michael J. DeCicco

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