On a cold, clear February 6 night, the members of the Rochester Conservation Commission came out to conduct the important business of upholding state and local wetlands protection regulations.
Coming before the commissioners was Evan Watson of Prime Engineering, flanked by other members of his engineering team and representatives from Clean Energy Collective LLC, with a request for an amended order of conditions for a solar array planned for 248 and 268 Mattapoisett Road.
Watson said that after further on-site review it was found that the plan previously submitted and approved by the Planning Board and conditioned by the Conservation Commission needed to be revised.
Watson said that an additional site survey exposed current conditions that required this newest application. Further, Watson explained that peer review consultant Ken Motta of Field Engineering had also requested that the plans be modified to accommodate site conditions and include new drainage calculations.
Of particular note was a shallow 2-foot berm noted by both Motta and Conservation Agent Laurell Farinon as being insufficient and that over time would not perform well.
Watson presented a new set of engineering plans that updated the berm height and provided the new topography report, erosion controls, and drainage calculations.
While the changes required a great degree of new technical documentation, Watson said that the scope of the project had not changed. Location of solar panels, limit of work, drainage patterns, and drainage calculations would all remain essentially the same.
Watson then said that he hoped to receive any additional input from the commission deemed necessary to the new plans so that final drawing could be submitted to the Planning Board for an upcoming review of the project.
Farinon said that she was concerned about a vernal pool on the property that might be affected by the clearing of trees that had taken place, and she wondered aloud about a need to address wildlife habitats and migrations.
Watson’s team reported that vernal pools are home to wood frogs and spotted salamanders, but that those species needed a dense shaded forest floor with thick leaf matter in order to thrive. It was noted that, with the absence of an overhead tree canopy and open landscape, the animals would not migrate to the pool any longer. It was further stated that the project had been permitted with this knowledge.
Laurene Gerrior asked about the possibility of including seeds in the landscape plans that were pollinator varieties. Watson agreed to include seeds of that type and that planting would take place around the bordering edge of the solar field and service roadway.
The public hearing was continued until March 6.
Also coming before the commission was a request for a Certificate of Compliance from Philip and Suzanne Lecuyer, 2 Thistle Lane. Farinon said that the homeowners had done a good job maintaining landscape boundaries. The request was approved.
A Chapter 61A Notice of Sale and Right of First Refusal for property on Alley Road, part of the estate of Mary Gayoski, was discussed. Farinon said that the two lots in question totaled approximately six acres with the recorded purchase price for one lot set at $160,000. The commissioners agreed with Farinon that a letter should be forwarded to the Board of Selectmen suggesting the town decline the offer.
The next meeting of the Rochester Conservation Commission is scheduled for February 20 at 7:00 pm in the town hall meeting room.
Rochester Conservation Commission
By Marilou Newell