I have attended three meetings of the Hopkinton Town Council to discuss the zoning change needed if a large piece of land is to be made into a “solar farm.” The first meeting, at Town Hall, was a presentation of the five "experts" hired by the man who wants to turn forestland into a solar farm. This would require clearing the land of over 7,000 trees plus all other vegetation. At this meeting we were not allowed to speak directly to the Town Council, only to the "experts," who came with lots of charts and much talking. At one point, a man who lives on Old Depot Road had questions for the man who wants to install the solar panels. His lawyer jumped up immediately and said, “You are not allowed to ask him those questions.” The questions were about his previous success or failures in the several businesses in which he was previously involved. These questions, if answered, would give a clue to his character.
The second meeting, held at Chariho Middle School because of the number of people attending, was again a presentation of the charts. The company had at first offered the people on Old Depot Road a 25-foot "buffer." They finally settled on a 700-foot buffer! The Town Council president invited the public to speak to the issue but to "keep your comments short and only have one turn to speak." Any time a question was asked, one of the five paid "specialists" was allowed to answer the question without a time limit. The questions were asked of the Town Council members, not the "experts" hired to say positive things about the issue.
At the third meeting, the same thing happened. The five "experts" were allowed to give another presentation and took much of the time. Many people had questions but at 10 p.m., the president said there was no more time for the public to speak but allowed one of the "specialists" to give another speech. That was when I left the meeting, disgusted with the unfairness.
One council member who has shown her desire to have the solar panels installed has a bumper sticker on her car that says "Keep Hopkinton Country." The fact that we already have 10 or 12 places where these panels have been installed is decreasing our "country atmosphere" and the members of the public do not see a need for another. Especially since it would require a change in zoning. The Planning Committee recommended no zone change be made. The council members ignored the committee's recommendation.
Since the property would be clear-cut, the homeowners on Old Depot Road would suffer from any runoff from water. That would not happen if the trees were left alone. The destruction of the habitat of birds, small animals, and deer would be a disgrace. And the water of the aquifer that is on the land could be polluted if any solar panel were to break. There are toxic chemicals in the panels. Who would pay for the cleanup? We often have heavy wind and rainstorms and hurricanes in Hopkinton. The panels could be vulnerable and the mess would affect everyone who owns land in the area. We have clearly told the Town Council we do not want this to happen. Two of the five council members have indicated they are not in favor of the change in zoning. The other three seem to see dollar signs instead of the effects to the citizens of Hopkinton. One of the two members will not run in November. Four members will, including the three who seem unaware of the wishes of the public. They have a good chance of being re-elected. In two years there will be another election, but before then, we could be stuck with a solar farm that is not wanted by the people who attended the meetings. There were over 100 people at the third meeting. Only one man spoke in favor of the solar panels and stated he "could do anything I want with my property. I own it." If he lives in a residential area, as do the homeowners on Old Depot Road and the Woodville-Alton Road, he would have to have a zoning change.
The council president stated there "may" be another meeting held.