The conference room at the Mattapoisett Town Hall was nearly filled to capacity when the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission opened its August 26 meeting. The application that brought out the Bowman Road neighborhood was filed by NextGrid Patriots, LLC, a nationwide alternative energy developer.
NextGrid is a company that works directly with landowners and their representatives to purchase or lease land for the installation of solar farms.
Representing the applicant was Richard Tabaczynski of Atlantic Design Engineers, Inc. Tabaczynski outlined the solar farm plan saying that the property, which had been for sale for a number of years and now owned by the developer, is a 20-acre parcel of which six acres would be disturbed for the installation of a 1-megawatt ground-mounted system.
Over the next 15 minutes, Tabaczynski explained the complexities of the stormwater management system that would be used to control rain once the site was cleared of trees. He described the wetland system that consists of a vernal pool, streams, and bordering vegetated areas, which he noted would not be heavily impacted by the two areas where solar panels are planned.
Part of the documents submitted by Atlantic Design Engineers included a stormwater runoff analysis and confirmation that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection did not have any comments regarding the filing, nor was the area in question considered priority habitat for wildlife.
Tabaczynski also said that the solar panels would be between 20 and 50 feet from the nearest home with a natural tree line left in place. The two array locations on the property would be fenced-in with 6-foot-high chain link fencing, he said.
The audience quietly absorbed all the information offered, including Chairman Mike King’s comments that the stormwater study included with the engineered system design would use the natural sloping of the parcel to move water away from Bowman Road and surrounding residences.
When the hearing for the Request for Determination of Applicability (RDA) filing was opened to the public, Mark Anderson, a Mattapoisett Land Trust member, read a letter from MLT President Mike Huguenin.
The MLT owns property abutting the NextGrid parcel.
The MLT letter read, in part, “The area to be cleared of forest is as close as 100 feet from the property boundary with MLT at the southern border. … This will place the solar arrays in full view of both people and wildlife using MLT lands.”
The letter goes on to ask that the project be situated at least 100 feet from the MLT area. The letter also asks that the commission condition the project to include independent engineering oversight for such matters as wetlands delineation, stormwater management, and review of stormwater management detention ponds to ensure maintenance is taking place as required, should the project be permitted.
King said on the matter of independent engineering oversight, “Mark Manganello of LEC is highly respected by his peers.” He said it was unlikely that the commission would order a peer review of the plans.
LEC produced the environmental impact study and other technical reports for the submittal package.
King also assured everyone that the project would be fully vetted by the commission and the conservation agent before any decisions would be made.
“You’ll get another bite of the apple when it goes before the ZBA,” said King.
The project requires a Zoning Board of Appeals special permit.
Becky Zora of 1 Martha’s Way spoke passionately of the wildlife and the forest. She said she had spent a lifetime on her property making sure to leave as much of it as possible in its natural state. She described the birds and other wildlife that make the wooded area home and questioned if the stormwater plan would, in fact, prevent flooding on her property. Zora questioned if the solar system would create noise and if glare would reflect off the panels. She closed her comments by saying, “This is an historic area. … The whole thing will be disturbed. … There is a spirit and soul in this land!”
Tabaczynski responded that the panels were non-reflective and that the inverters associated with the system would be some 500 feet from the nearest home; thus, any humming associated with them would not be heard.
Later in the hour-long discussion, Zora would again make a case for preserving the forest for wildlife. King said that animals would not be impacted by the array and could enter and exit the fenced area without an issue.
“But the trees won’t come back,” she retorted.
Paul Osenkowski, a Mattapoisett Land Trust member, also spoke with rising emotion of the need to preserve the area for the protection of the watershed. He said the MLT had been working on adjacent lands for years to improve the area for wildlife and water quality, adding, “The area has historic and anthropological significance.” He also asked that a list of other solar sites developed by NextGrid be submitted.
King closed the public hearing again, assuring the assembled that further review would be given to the application before decisions would be made.
“We will address your concerns as best we can,” King said.
The hearing was continued until September 9.
In other business, a Negative Determination of Applicability was given to Better Community Living Inc., 71 Fairhaven Road, for the construction of a small addition and wheelchair ramp.
Also receiving a Negative Determination was the RDA by David McIntire, Jr., 0 Industrial Park, for the installation of a sewer main for seven lots.
Patrick Diggins, 2 Bayshore Drive, received a Negative Determination for his RDA application for the construction of a deck, as did James Barnes, 69 Mattapoisett Neck Road, for the removal of cedar trees and construction of a boat storage area and hoop building.
Carlos and Aldora Pacheco, 133 Brandt Island Road, received conditioning for their Notice of Intent filing for the construction of a front porch, sunroom, and garage, as well as improvements to the septic system.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission is scheduled for September 9 at 6:30 pm in the Town Hall conference room.
Mattapoisett Conservation Commission
By Marilou Newell