Even though the solar array on the Brushy Brook property in Hopkinton was voted down (3-2) on Monday, January 28, it can be brought back for reconsideration by one of the three prevailing councilors.
It is difficult to characterize requests to a solar developer as a bribe or “repugnant” when the only benefits construed are for the citizens of Hopkinton to lower their tax base and municipal bills. The requests were made in full public view at public hearings, on camera and with a full court stenographer present to record all discussion. All town staff and councils negotiate through their RFP’s and approval processes with developers, contractors, insurance agencies and others — ultimately everything that the citizens are billed for, use or see. This is no different. It’s simply a new genre.
Everyone pays taxes, but citizens give back within their neighborhoods to create vibrant and valuable communities. A solar array employs for construction, pays taxes yearly, but then, for 20 years or more, gives nothing back to the local economy. Not acceptable by my standards. So, I stepped up to the plate.
My requests of up-front infrastructure improvements — the final monies for a renovated town hall, $250,000 to allow ADA compliance, and $150,000 for the removal of the 1904 elementary school building, which has asbestos and lead and is a danger to our children. Then yearly payments of 100% of our municipal electrical budget, $40,000 for the ongoing work of our Land Trust to renovate and create trails and access to our forested and preserved land, $20,000 to our nonprofits, to be different every other year supporting the very fine work of any number of businesses who enliven, strengthen and support children, working parents and our elders — the same as any citizen or business in Hopkinton and the surrounding towns.
Hopkinton has no beachfront property or extensive commercial and manufacturing facilities. We need our own system to create a tax base, so solar, buffered and hidden in our large parcels of land, may be what we have been looking for. Ultimately, with property and tangible taxes of approximately $346,000, the total per year with this one property would be $500,000 for 20 years or more and includes approximately $100,000 for the municipal electric bill, $40,000 for the Land Trust and $20,000 for our non-profits. My fellow councilors felt this was “repugnant” and voted “No”. Save the trees, raise the taxes. Frank Landolfi and I are NOT politicians. Every decision we have made has been to support our local organizations, stabilize taxes and to keep Hopkinton not only "Country," but in the black.
Although solar and wind are imperfect, they’re all we’ve got. We are rural, do not wish to become simply a bedroom community, and intend to stay that way. We also know we are only part of a larger whole, a local and regional solution to very complex and often overwhelming fuel and climate problems.
We have always been resilient, courageous and independent. We can do this.
The writer is a member of the Hopkinton Town Council.