Solar Field Continues to Avoid Planning Board Shade

            The latest solar array project in Rochester moved ahead slightly in the special permitting process during the Rochester Planning Board meeting on September 10. A site visit has been scheduled for September 21 to give the board a more concrete visual of the scope and layout of the solar panels, and if all goes as SWEB Development USA, LLC assumes it will with the Conservation Commission, the process could speed up considerably come the next Planning Board meeting.

            This night, SWEB Development’s Sarah Rosenblat displayed some ‘before and after’ photos of a similar site in Germany to demonstrate how the undergrowth beneath the panels will regrow after the initial field clearing slated for the Route 105 site. She presented two options for reseeding the ground after the clearing with different grass species seed mixes and ratios, opting for the developer’s consultant’s recommended 70-percent rough blue grass mixed with 30-percent shade-tolerant Kentucky blue grass.

            The plan for the rear of the access road of the original plan has been altered and will now be raised via a berm created from extra materials excavated during the access road construction.

            As for the site visit, Rosenblat said she would be staking either side of the access road to demonstrate its location, place another stake at the gate, and one stake at the starting panel and at the major corners where further arrays would be located.

            Rosenblat said the next meeting with the Conservation Commission was on September 17 and added, “We are hoping that at the end of that meeting they will have rendered a decision on that ANRAD (Abbreviated Notice of Resource Area Delineation).”

            Planning Board Chairman Arnie Johnson then turned to the decommissioning bond estimate and pointed out that SWEB’s was significantly different than the board’s peer review engineer, Ken Motta.

            “I’m not surprised that he came in higher than we did,” said Rosenblat. She asked if she could see the specifics behind the sum, such as Motta’s estimated costs for labor, equipment rentals, and etcetera.

            “Just to let you know,” said Johnson, “we always go with his (Motta’s) number.”

            Johnson and Rosenblat continued their conversation as board member Michael Murphy consumed his seedless red grapes, a snack choice that deviated greatly from his usual medley of sugarcoated gummies and M&Ms. The opened bag of Sour Patch Kids in front of board members Lee Carr and Chris Silveira was likely less perplexing to the regular Planning Board meeting attendee more accustomed to conference table looking like a Candy Land playing board.

            SWEB’s public hearing was continued until September 24.

            “We’re getting there,” said Johnson.

            In other matters, the board approved a minor change to the original approval for Countryside Daycare, 15 Cranberry Highway, to install two shade canopies above the two previously approved playground structures and two large umbrellas over two sandboxes.

            The next meeting of the Rochester Planning Board is scheduled for September 24 at 7:00 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.

Rochester Planning Board

By Jean Perry

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