Solar developer NextGrid, Inc., doing business as Next Grid Bowman, LLC, filed a civil complaint with the Massachusetts Land Court on December 9 against the Mattapoisett Zoning Board of Appeals that voted 4-1 to deny the applicant a special permit to construct a one-megawatt solar farm off Bowman Road.
The company known as Next Grid Patriots, LLC of San Francisco, California purchased the 19.4-acre property to develop four of those acres for a large-scale, ground-mounted solar array field.
In its complaint, NextGrid asserts that the ZBA acted in an “arbitrary and capricious manner,” and that the board’s denial was based on “legally untenable grounds”, and is “unreasonable, whimsical, capricious, and arbitrary.”
The solar developer argues that the ZBA voted to deny the project during the first and only night it opened the public hearing, despite having previously approved two other solar farms in town that are even larger in scale and “in the exact same residential zone.”
Mattapoisett has no bylaw that regulates solar developments or restricts solar farms to any particular zone.
The complaint alleges that one or more ZBA members “acted in gross negligence (and) in bad faith.” As a result of the denial, NextGrid says the company will suffer over $132,000 in direct damages by losing a tax credit if the project is not approved before the end of 2019.
NextGrid asserts that it presented uncontested evidence that the project would be entirely screened from pubic view, although not required by Mattapoisett law, and noted in its complaint that ZBA Chairman Susan Akin commented that the site “was not more historic or any different than several other solar farms which were approved…”
According to the complaint, the largest abutter to the project, Mattapoisett Land Trust, voted not to oppose the project in exchange for certain conditions that NextGrid was willing to provide, but other abutters made comments such as “’[A]lthough you will not see it or hear it, you will feel it when you walk by because you would know it was there.”
The Conservation Commission had approved Next Grid Bowman’s Notice of Intent application back on October 2.
The only ZBA member to vote in favor of the special permit was Chairman Susan Akin.
NextGrid is seeking monetary compensation for its losses, as well as costs incurred as a result of litigation.
By Jean Perry