ADAMS -- Drainage, property values and line-of-sight issues proved foremost among residents’ concerns at a Planning Board public hearing attended by roughly 35 Monday night regarding a proposed 1.5-megawatt solar development on East Road.
Sited on 11.6 acres owned by the Loholdt family at 217 East Rd., the proposal aims to place an estimated 6,100 panels there that would be mounted on stakes for a contracted period of 25 years.
The proposer, Seth Ginsberg, president of Alford’s Apis Energy Group, says lower local utility costs would certainly result.
He said even with the town’s planned 1.1-megawatt solar array soon going up just down the road, an energy "void" still exists waiting to be filled with cheaper, renewable power that would benefit the water district, fire district and school district.
"This technology is called large-scale ground mounting," Ginsberg said. "[The panels] follow the contour of the ground. ... They’re removable and at the highest point are no higher than eight feet off the grade."
Ginsberg said an environmental impact report is in the process of being engineered and his group is also at work on an interconnection agreement with National Grid that would plug the potential array into the local system.
But one result of the hearing was the airing of public demand for a second, independent environmental impact study, done at the developer’s expense and in addition to the study Apis has already contracted. Board members, too, conceded that such a step would likely be necessary.
Residents said the property in question has been subject to bulldozing, tree-clearing and other development over the years that, combined with town work on East Road, has created serious drainage issues.
"[Department of Public Works Director] Tommy Satko said he’s seen times when water was coming down so fast off that field it blew the lids off the manholes," East Road resident Jeffrey Lefebvre said.
Another nearby resident, Edward Driscoll, said similar proposals for "industrial" solar developments in residential neighborhoods elsewhere in the state -- Cheshire, Sturbridge, Hollistan -- brought estimates from realtors of 15 percent home value declines.
"There’s 30 properties [around the area in question] that are valued at $5 million," Driscoll said.
Driscoll also said state law, despite including language to facilitate small-scale, accessory solar panels on businesses and homes, provides ample ability for local planning boards to reject such proposals.
Members of the board said local realtors would be asked for their assessments of the situation, but they declined Driscoll’s request that the proposal be rejected outright.
Resident Joe Alcaro elicited a round of applause with his commentary.
"Would you want 6,100 solar panels in your back yard?" he asked. "Think about it."
The site plans provide for tree and shrubbery screening, to be negotiated with town boards and residents, and the development would also be fenced off.
Other measures, such as the extent of drainage precautions and liability concerns if an operator of the array were to go out of business within the given span, are also subject to negotiation. Ginsberg said the materials would be worth far more than the cost of removing them.
The board has roughly one month to make its decision. Monday’s public hearing concluded with the scheduling of the board’s next meeting, Monday, May 13 at 7:30 p.m.
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