On June 10, Hopkinton Town Council will decide whether or not to change more than 100 acres of residential property into a commercial zone for the purpose of installing an industrial solar facility. Some argue the increase in the town’s tax revenue is too good to pass up.
In a May opinion letter, the council president estimates that taxes on the proposed industrial facility will save the average Hopkinton household $44 per year in property tax. The town’s poorest residents, however, may only save $20 while the wealthiest residents save more.
Hopkinton taxes commercial property at the same rate as residential property. But commercial property owners are permitted to install industrial facilities with little regard for their neighbors. This creates an untenable situation that town planning is meant to address.
What’s more, Hopkinton doesn’t have the authority to increase taxes on solar panels. The tax rate is controlled by the state. Hopkinton charges a higher tax rate on automobiles than on solar panels.
If the council votes to rezone, more than 60 homes will suddenly be next to an industrial facility. There are no studies on the effects of industrial solar on home prices — it’s a gamble for homeowners.
Ironically, the property in question was recently listed on the town’s website for tax sale due to unpaid taxes.
Conservation experts and planning professionals agree that siting solar facilities in southern Rhode Island is being done poorly. Energy goals can be met by installing green energy facilities strategically on rooftops, land fills, gravel banks, and other disturbed properties.
Residential rooftop solar can save households more than $1,000 per year. Rooftop solar is proven to increase property value and the town’s tax revenue. It does so quietly and without destroying our precious natural landscape. It’s a better choice for Hopkinton and its people.
We don’t need to choose one or the other. By siting solar responsibly, Hopkinton can increase the town’s tax revenue, maintain the integrity of our residential neighborhoods, and become a green energy leader. We can preserve our forests, farms, watersheds, and rivers. We can meet energy production targets without damaging our valuable ecosystem. Please tell your officials and representatives to plan responsibly.