HOPKINTON — A familiar scenario played out at Hopkinton Town Hall Monday, as once again the Town Council held a hearing on applications for zoning and Comprehensive Plan amendments to permit the construction of a large solar energy project.
The hearing came on the heels of the council’s approval in May of zoning amendments to permit the construction of another large solar energy project on Main Street in Ashaway. That project, to be built by the same developer, will occupy 58 acres of a 137-acre site.
The parcels under consideration this time are currently zoned “Residential,” and if the amendments are approved, portions of the properties would be changed to “Commercial Zone Special.”
Representing the applicant, Rhode Island Solar Renewable Energy III LLC, attorney Vincent Naccarato intended to call nine expert witnesses, only two of whom had testified by press time.
Also present in the council chambers were several neighbors of the proposed project who had questions about how the solar array, which will occupy approximately half of the 100 acres of land, would affect the quality of life in their rural community.
The 13.75 AC-megawatt array would be built on three lots; one at 350 Woodville Alton Road, another at 6 Townsend Road, and a third on an adjacent site that was used as the town landfill in the 1960s and, later, a private dump. That parcel has been deemed contaminated by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, which currently holds a lien on the property.
“We’re also creating a lot of the contaminated area, which is the old dump, it’s approximately 12.6 acres,” Naccarato said.
If the project is approved, Rhode Island Solar would conduct and pay for the remediation, which would involve capping the landfill at a cost of approximately $600,000.
The first witness for the developer was project manager Audie Osgood of DiPrete Engineering, who described the scope of the project and its proximity to neighboring properties.
Councilors asked how close the array would be to the nearest house, how construction might affect the aquifer, and how many trees would be cleared for the project.
“About five-and-a-half acres of the area proposed for panels has been cleared and it will take another 67 acres of clearing for those panels,” Osgood said.
David Curran, who lives on Old Depot Road not far from the site, said he was concerned about how cutting the trees might increase highway noise levels at his home and how his view might change. Curran urged the council to approve a smaller project that would not encroach on his neighborhood.
“I’m looking at solar panels at the home I spent a substantial amount of money for and am paying a substantial amount of taxes for at this point,” he said. “That’s not the view that I moved to Hopkinton for … The quality of living for something like this, backing so close into a neighborhood on a dead end street that backs a management area that’s an aquifer, I’m going to lose a lot of money on my home.”
The council will render a decision on the zoning and Comprehensive Plan amendments at a future meeting.