Town counsel to help draft solar farm article

Jul 14, 2020

A proposed solar farm on Cross Road is a step closer to becoming a reality after the Planning Board decided town counsel should help the project developers draft an article for Fall Town Meeting.

In a virtual meeting on July 13, the Planning Board went back-and-forth 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, this parcel would house a large-mount solar array, according to Joseph Hamel, senior project manager at NextEra.

Earlier this year, the Planning Board voted against a proposal due to concerns with re-zoning the 38-acre lot behind the Autumn Glen assisted living facility from a residential to a business use.

For Planning Board members, the main concern was that re-zoning the lot could leave it open to any business use if the solar plans were to fall through.

Member John Sousa said the land could be used as a big box store, or even a large warehouse requiring more intensive road maintenance.

“Those poor people who live on those side streets would have to put up with all that traffic,” he added. “That’s my fear.”

Hamel said that he has been working with the town to create a covenant to revert the land to residential use if plans fell through within 30 years.

Since the lot is in a wooded area, he noted, it would not be all that appealing for other commercial businesses.

“I can’t think of any big box store that would want to locate itself a few hundred to a thousand feet off of a main road,” Hamel said. “We’re doing something that protects the town for the next 30 years.”

Board member Stephen Taylor said that while he is not the biggest fan of new developments, the proposed solar farm with the restrictive covenant would be “the lesser of two evils,” adding that he would like to have seen the covenant last longer than 30 years.

“Thirty years is not as long as I would like, but 30 years is a hell of a lot better than nothing,” Taylor said. “If we make Dartmouth a better town in 2050 than it is today, then we will have done great work as a planning board.”

The board unanimously voted to have assistant town counsel Brian Cruise work with NextEra to draft a covenant and zoning article for Fall Town Meeting.