WOOD RIVER JCT. — At Monday’s Hopkinton Town Council meeting, a scheduled hearing on an application for zoning and comprehensive plan changes for a commercial solar energy project was continued at the request of attorney Robert Craven, who represents the developer.
Atlantic Solar LLC of Providence and Atlantic Control Systems Inc. of North Kingstown are proposing to build the project on 29.7 acres in three lots at 0 Main Street, all of which are in a residential/farming zone and would require changes to commercial/special. The hearing, which has already been continued once from last January, is now scheduled for May 28.
During the first public forum of the council meeting, which took place at the Chariho Middle School in anticipation of a crowd attending for the solar application, Hopkinton Citizens for Responsible Planning founder Eric Bibler suggested that all nine solar facility applications currently submitted to the town should not even be considered.
Bibler explained that James Donnelly, the attorney representing the citizens’ group and dozens of abutters, has submitted a legal opinion to the town arguing that since none of the projects would be permitted in the residential zones in which they are proposed to be built, and all would require amendments to the comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance to change the zones to commercial/special, the applications are subject to the town’s new solar energy ordinance and not, as has been previously suggested, grandfathered simply because the applications were submitted before the ordinance was passed.
“You can’t be vested in a right that you don’t already enjoy,” Bibler told the council. “You can’t be vested in an intention or an aspiration or a desire to possess something, so in this case, every single one of the property owners that has approached the Town Council that wants to install commercial solar facilities wants to do it on RFR 80 property that’s zoned for residential. RFR 80 properties - commercial activities are generally prohibited on those properties and they certainly don’t enjoy any right to install commercial solar facilities on those properties.”
Bibler urged council members to consider Donnelly’s legal opinion before investing more time and resources in considering the nine applications.
In other business, Town Manager William McGarry reported that he and Town Planner James Lamphere, Planning Clerk Sean Henry, Department of Public Works Director Tim Tefft and engineering consultant Steven Cabral from Crossman Engineering inspected the newer section of the former town landfill on Stubtown Road.
The town is considering using the 15-acre landfill, which was capped in 1999, as a site for a solar energy facility.
“Although Rhode Island DEM has basically confirmed the proper closure of the new landfill, Steve Cabral of Crossman is going to prepare a proposal on what work needs to be done to prevent any erosion of the landfill after all these years,” McGarry said. “This is a long term project and a work in progress.”
McGarry also reported that a request for proposals has been drafted for the second phase of the Langworthy Field improvement project. The project is expected to cost $1.2 million. The town received a $400,000 DEM recreational grant in 2016 and in 2018, the DEM awarded a second grant in the amount of $300,000. The remaining funds are from Community Development Block grants.
Phase 2 of the project will include the addition of amenities such as benches and a walking path to attract seniors to the park, a multisport court and a regular playground, as well as a “tot lot” for younger children, and 25 new parking spaces.
The council approved the master plan in 2016 and Lamphere has been planning and coordinating the project since 2012.