WOOD RIVER JCT. — The Town Council approved amendments to the town's Non-residential Photovoltaic Solar Energy Systems ordinance on Tuesday to further limit industrial solar energy facilities in residential zones.
The meeting was held in the Chariho Middle School auditorium to accommodate the crowd. More than 50 people were in attendance.
During several hearings, council members have debated the lengthy section pertaining to the portion of land that can be covered by solar panels if the parcel has been rezoned to accommodate a solar energy facility. Commercial solar development will be now restricted to 3 acres or 3 percent of the parcel, whichever is the lesser of the two.
Town Planner James Lamphere presented last-minute changes to the proposed amendment, which council member Sylvia Thompson rejected.
“We went over this and over this and over this in the last meeting and we looked at two different paragraphs and now we have this paragraph in our packet and now you’re asking us to look at something else, and I think what’s in the packet is perfect," she said.
After agreeing to minor changes requested by councilors Barbara Capalbo and Sharon Davis, the council approved the amendment, which will not apply to applications for solar projects which have already been submitted to the town.
Also on the council agenda were hearings, both of which were continued, for two recent applications for commercial solar projects.
Atlantic Solar LLC and Gordon Excavating Inc. are requesting comprehensive plan and zoning amendments to allow the construction of a solar facility on property at Arcadia Road and Lisa Lane, which is in an RFR-80, or residential and farming zone. The hearing was continued to March 25.
Atlantic Solar LLC is also requesting comprehensive plan and zoning amendments for a second project at 145 Skunk Hill Road. That hearing has been continued to April 15.
During the public forum, several residents submitted petitions, signed by abutting landowners and other property owners, that oppose zoning changes for commercial solar projects and urging the council to heed the findings of the Planning Board when it recommends denying the applications.
Some residents also expressed opinions for and against commercial solar installations in RFR-80 zones.
A resident of Main Street near Lawton Foster Road said he had bought his property decades ago for the peace and quiet and was shocked when he learned of the Atlantic Solar proposal.
“A lot of us really didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “I found by a certified letter in the mail … I didn’t know that this was going to be near my house until my next-door neighbor came over and said ‘This is right in our backyard.’”
Lisa Lane resident Jim Dillon asked the council to curtail solar development.
“Let’s get this solar thing, no matter what it is, under control so that Hopkinton is not known as the place to go build the next solar farm,” he said.
Supporting the solar projects was Ed Corapezza, who wants to develop part of his property as a solar facility. Corapezza asked the council to listen to residents who are in favor of such projects, and not just the opponents.
“There’s an opportunity to make a few bucks to pay for some taxes, and all I hear are negative words about solar,” he said. “Solar is a renewable resource…I am pleading with you people … you’ve got to represent all the people.”