Solar Farm Remains a Dark Cloud to Residents

Residents of Mendell Road and Rounseville Road living close to the location of a proposed large-scale solar farm still aren’t seeing the sunny side of approving such a project in their rural neighborhood.

On November 14, the Rochester Planning Board allowed more time for residents to ask questions and voice their concerns, and Planning Board Chairman Arnie Johnson gave them answers – perhaps not the ones they preferred to hear – and addressed the concerns they raised.

One man expressed a heartfelt concern about the existing wildlife at the property, including deer, snowy owls, moles, and even a lynx he alleges he has seen there.

But of the 81 acres, said Borrego Solar Systems representative Steve Long, only 13 of them will be developed for the solar farm.

“So there’s a substantial amount that’s going to remain undeveloped,” said Long. “There’s a vast area that they can move around.”

Still, the resident commented that this used to be “God’s Country.”

“…And it doesn’t look like it anymore.”

Concerns on flooding that has happened in the past at the lowest point of the field off Mendell Road was brought up, and the Planning Board’s peer review engineer Ken Motta and Long reassured residents that the project would in no way exacerbate any flooding or add to it in any way.

“He cannot increase the extent of lateral flooding along Mendell Road beyond what already exists,” Motta reassured residents.

Long said most of the outstanding issues have been resolved, and the solar developer has agreed to comply with the board’s bond amounts and other finance-related matters.

Further hydrology surveying is still pending, said Long, which Motta would still need to review, requiring another continuation of the public hearing.

“I think by the next meeting … we should have it all ironed out by then,” said Long. “The only other thing is the color of the fence. I know that’s the only outstanding thing that keeps going on and on and on.”

Planning Board member Gary Florindo stated that during recent talks with neighbors, they expressed a preference for a natural wood fence.

“If it comes to being wood is more in character with the neighborhood, then fine,” said Florindo.

Long said he concurred that a seven-foot stockade wooden fence would look better than a colored wooden or vinyl one.

In other matters, Johnson said he had met with JC Engineering, the potential developers of the property beside Plumb Corner on Rounseville Road.

The developers during the last Planning Board meeting shared a plan to develop the property into 24 lots, which the Planning Board vehemently maintained was impossible given the language of the Limited Commercial District Bylaw language.

Johnson reported that during his most recent informal meeting with the developers, he had some “salty language” for them because they came to the table again with the same plan they presented during the last meeting.

“All they’re looking at is to lock in the zoning at this point,” Johnson said.

“I think they found a flaw in the way the bylaw was written and they’re going to take advantage of it,” Planning Board member Ben Bailey said.

Johnson said he thought the developer was cherry-picking the language of the bylaw to suit the project.

There is a possible loophole there in the bylaw, Johnson stated, but it’s likely more like a gap, “And they’re trying to drive a Mack truck through it.”

Johnson said the matter would appear on the agenda of the December 12 meeting.

Also during the meeting, the board approved the plan for an Approval Not Required application for Gibbs Bray for 453 Rounseville Road.

The next meeting of the Rochester Planning Board is scheduled for December 12 at 7:00 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.

Rochester Planning Board

By Jean Perry


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