RMS Solar Draws Criticism

            The Rochester Planning Board started its September 27 public meeting by briefly reviewing the draft decisions for the Arch at the Meadows project and the Buzzards Bay Coalition’s Marion Road Scenic Highway permit application.

            Board Chairman Arnold Johnson quickly concluded that both plans were ready for Town Counsel Blair Bailey to review before they would be voted on at the Planning Board’s next meeting on Tuesday, October 11.

            The Arch at the Meadow plan is to move the property owner’s driveway to their home lot instead of its current location, which is closer to the business lot. Doing so will require waivers of parking and lighting regulations.

            The Buzzards Bay Coalition’s Scenic Roadway permit application involves permission to cut trees on 55 acres on Marion Road now owned by Elliot Farms, LLC.

            The board, however, reserved most of its time Tuesday night for an “informal discussion” of the plan to build a photovoltaic solar canopy in the back parking lot of the Rochester Memorial School.

            Senior project engineer Robert Bowman of Green Seal Environmental (GSE) began by noting suitable documents have been submitted to the board, and he was open to further questions.

            Johnson’s first criticism of the plan was that in some spots it promises the solar installation will supply 70 percent of the school’s electricity needs and in other spots only 68 percent. “I’d like you to be more consistent,” he said.

            Then Johnson noted the plan requests waivers from all stormwater regulation. A decision on that will require first the engineering peer-review report, he said. Next, he criticized the screening plan as not being adequate for the neighbors to the west of the school.

            Lastly, Johnson noted any decommissioning fee would have to be paid up front, not later, and he criticized GSE for paying for an engineering study that “got it wrong.” The study asserts the school building is one floor when, in fact, it is two floors.

            The board’s discussion with Bowman also revealed that the 14-foot-high steel beams holding up the canopy would be embedded in a concrete foundation, and the school will have direct access to the electricity it generates and to the installation’s lighting system.

            Town planner Nancy Durfee said she wants more information on how the installation’s electrical system will tie into the school’s system.

            Board member Chris Silveira asked whether the project’s design would meet setback requirements. Johnson said he will check with Town Counsel to answer that.

            Bowman expressed willingness to work on all of the above concerns.

            GSE officials on Zoom asked when the public hearing will take place. Durfee was unsure, as she is still reviewing the paperwork. But she said the hearing might be scheduled for the Planning Board’s October 25 public meeting.

            In related action, the board then signed the contract with Field Engineering for the peer review of the solar canopy project.

            Also Tuesday night, the board said it will post a meeting so it may attend an October 4 site visit of the Rounseville Road solar project.

            The Rochester Memorial School solar canopy is being installed as part of a power-purchase agreement between GSE and the school. GSE is paying for all construction and permitting costs.

            The Planning Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 11, at 7:00 pm at Old Colony Regional Vocational-Technical High School library, also accessible live via Zoom.

Rochester Planning Board

By Michael J. DeCicco

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