Possible trail connections for proposed solar array

Jul 27, 2020

A new solar array may link trails to town forests after a resident brought up the idea at a planning board meeting on July 27.

At the meeting, the Planning Board offered suggestions over a proposed zoning change that would allow NextEra Energy Resources to build a solar array in a residential area.  

If the change is made, the parcel behind Autumn Glen assisted living facility would house a large-mount solar array, according to Joseph Hamel, senior project manager at NextEra.

Dartmouth resident and land conservationist Mike Labossiere said that he would like to see some sort of public access on the land to connect with some of the town’s forests since it abuts the property.

“This area represents the last possibility of connecting the traditional trunk trail to Cross Road,” he said. “The potential of adding conservation land and creating access would be a tremendous benefit, especially to the large population in this area of North Dartmouth.”

“It’s really a high quality ecosystem,” Labossiere added.

Board member Stephen Taylor agreed, saying he would like to discuss this further at a future meeting.

“This sounds to me like a golden opportunity,” he said. 

Along with potential trail connections, the board also discussed the idea of tweaking the restriction to turn the land over to agricultural use if the solar farm were to fail.

“I would be favorable to agricultural and solar uses and not a long list of box stores and subdivisions,” Taylor said.

Currently an amendment to the petition would make it so the only commercial use would be a solar facility.

Assistant town counsel Brian Cruise recommended a time gap to prevent an immediate change in use in case the land owners decide they want the land to become agricultural immediately after the zoning change. 

Board member John Sousa said that while he liked the idea of the land being used, he said he felt that the proposed language was too broad.

“We’re opening a door here,” Sousa said. “Let’s make sure the crack is only for agricultural uses.”

Earlier this year, the Planning Board voted against a proposal due to concerns with re-zoning the 38-acre lot from a residential to a business use or multi-lot subdivision.

Now, the citizen’s petition has been resubmitted for the Fall Town meeting with the help of the town counsel, according to Hamel.

According to Cruise, there will need to be a floor amendment to introduce the covenant he and Hamel are working on that would prevent the land from being used for a large retailer for 99 years.

“Although we don’t like doing floor amendments, this is such an open and obvious one that it’s not going to cause any confusion,” he said.