The Recorder – Conway residents favor additional regulation of solar tasks
CONWAY – Residents at a planning committee meeting on Thursday evening broadly endorsed the changes being considered for the current solar law, such as: B. increasing setbacks and the requirement for special permission for arrays over 5 acres.
The statutes, which were last amended in 2015 as part of a Green Communities grant, do not cover residential solar panels or small solar panels on the roof, explained Mary McClintock, a member of the planning committee. The goal of Thursday’s briefing was to receive input on concerns that may have an impact on the community.
Chair Beth Girshman opened the meeting with a brief overview of the current statutes, followed by a presentation of six proposed amendments based on the planning committee’s research.
“We read a lot of the statutes,” she said.
These changes include requiring a special permit process and site review for all new solar systems over 5 acres. increasing setbacks; Strengthening the requirements for sound testing; Requirement for site supervision – paid by the applicant – for planned projects over 5 hectares; Requirement of visibility check prior to approval; and increasing sieving or planting and maintenance requirements.
Several of the residents who made comments at the meeting said they support the Main Poland Road project, which leases private land to solar energy company Nexamp.
Jeff Golay of Main Poland Road said he supported the request for a special permit.
“When we knew (the Nexamp project) was happening, it was designed and ready to go,” he said. “I am absolutely in favor of requiring a special permit so that the city and the neighbors can have more control over the process.”
His neighbors agreed to their support. Jack Farrell, also from Main Poland Road, asked if it was possible to hold a community meeting prior to the approval process – similar to the community meeting required by the state for marijuana facilities.
“We could consider that,” said McClintock.
Regarding noise restrictions, residents expressed concerns about the construction phase of a project as well as the sound of the solar panels even after construction was completed.
“If there is a buzz or I live on a low frequency … it will really blow my mind,” commented Gerry LeBlanc on the Nexamp project in his neighborhood.
Supervision of the construction site was also preferred, with residents advising that it should also include disposing of rubbish, trash and stone dust and providing a “precise” schedule for the expected completion of construction.
After reviewing each of the six possible changes that the planning agency was considering, residents were given the opportunity to suggest something else that was not part of the discussion.
Alice Vigliani, for example, asked the board to consider density limits – in other words, not to allow too many solar system projects in a neighborhood. Others expressed interest in the Board examining its ability to protect wetlands.
Joe Strzegowski, a member of the planning committee, referred to a remote meeting he had attended in Northfield regarding a proposed dual-use solar panel project on Pine Meadow Road that would raise cattle under the solar farm.
“State law says you can’t regulate agriculture, and it also says you can’t regulate the sun unfairly,” he said. “I think if the city wrote a wetland requirement that is stricter than state law, it would have to apply to the entire city. I don’t think you could single out solar. ”
Instead, he asked if the planning authority would consider relaxing some of the proposed changes to allow farmers to put grain or animals under the panels.
“If we write a restrictive statute, we would prevent farmers,” he said.
Some agreed with the sentiment but others felt that it would “undo” the work done during the meeting.
“I appreciate anyone who has commented,” said McClintock after about two hours of discussion. “This is exactly the kind of information we wanted to get in our collection of information to figure out how to propose a revision of this statute.”
The board will continue to accept comments at Planningboard@townofconway.com, ideally before its March 4th meeting, McClintock said.
“At the March 4th meeting, we will process this information and translate it into a revision language for zoning,” she said.
A public hearing on the statute will take place on March 24th.
Mary Byrne can be reached at email@example.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne