It had been hotly debated, passionately viewed as an abomination to primal woodlands, not the right fit for the location, and generally believed by abutters and the Mattapoisett Land Trust as just plain wrong. But on May 22 after nearly a year that saw NextGrid Bowman Road LLC being denied a Special Permit by the Zoning Board of Appeals, the site plan for the project was approved by the Mattapoisett Planning Board. The project, now slated to move forward, is a commercial solar array on private property owned by NextGrid of San Francisco.
Once again coming before the Planning Board were Daniel Seber of NextGrid, attorney for the applicant Joseph Pacella, and the architects and engineers for the project, Atlantic Design of Sandwich.
Present on the Planning Board were acting Chairman Nathan Ketchel, board administrator Mary Crain, and members, Karen Field, Arlene Fidalgo, and Janice Robbins.
Early in the reopened hearing, resident Paul Osenkowski attempted to bring the thoughts and comments of Chairman Tom Tucker who is presently stationed on a Massachusetts Maritime Academy Ship docked in Mobile, Alabama. Tucker has been unavailable for several months during which the Planning Board has been hearing the applicant’s site plan request. Osenkowski said he was speaking on behalf of Tucker and had been told by him that the remote meeting process wasn’t one he agreed with. Tucker, according to Osenkowski, had voiced his displeasure of the process that didn’t grant him the opportunity to hear the case due to a lack of computer connectivity and time of day the meeting was taking place.
Osenkowski said, “He (Tucker) said he is upset because there is no need for an immediate decision… he is not in favor of this because the ZBA was not in favor.”
Crain, speaking to the remote meeting process, said of Tucker’s comments to her, “He has not been able to attend. We can’t hear his perspective because he has not been able to participate remotely.” “We are doing what is allowed by the governor’s orders,” she continued then added, “…it comes down to his disagreement with the remote hearing process. He can miss one meeting; this is the third meeting… I can’t speak for him otherwise.”
Osenkowski was allowed to exhaust his comments and asked the board members to take Tucker’s comments into consideration. “He feels like he has been left out.”
But direct abutter Becky Zora, who had pleaded that the applicant should not be allowed to put a solar array on the Bowman Road property and next door to her home now, said, “It has been a long process. I just wanted to make sure that everything was honest and lawful. The applicant and the boards have done that.” Of the remote meeting process, she told the Planning Board, “We have to continue to go forward in spite of COVID… If all the laws are being followed, I have no more questions… I’m overwhelmed by the amount of work you do.”
Mike Huguenin, president of the Mattapoisett Land Trust referring to a letter from the MLT to the Planning Board dated May 20, said, “The site is not suitable for solar… we are firm in our conviction that you have the legal right to deny this application.”
The Planning Board reviewed specific site-plan conditions and language, was satisfied with the plans as they currently are crafted, with Ketchel going line by line over those areas that the Planning Board was responsible for conditioning, namely stormwater, roadways, lighting, screening, and construction activity. He said just before closing the public portion of the hearing, “We are here for site-plan review.”
Robbins moved that the project be approved with conditions. It was a unanimous decision. A draft of the decision and conditions will be written by Crain for the board to review.
In another matter discussed informally, Crain told the board that developer Scott Snow was seeking site-plan modifications regarding a foundation for a home off Prospect Road. Currently he has moved the structure to a temporary foundation permitted by the Building Department. Robbins thought that the request was more than a minor change and asked Crain to invite Snow to the next meeting.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Planning Board is scheduled for Monday, June 1, at 7:00 pm. Visit mattapoisett.net for remote meeting log-in details.
Mattapoisett Planning Board
By Marilou Newell