Cheshire Planning Board
Hearing: Monday, August 28, 2017 7PM
Present: Donna M. DeFino, Francis M. Griswold, Peter H. Traub, Ronald W. DeAngelis., Nick Graham and Sandra Sloane
Donna opened the Cheshire Planning Board monthly meeting at 7pm. Peter moved to accept the minutes of July 24, 2017; 2nd by Ron with a unanimous vote taken.
Although Fran Griswold was present, Donna asked him to recluse himself as he is an employee of the applicant for this evenings Hearing. Sandy Sloane, as the Alternate, took in his place.
Donna proceeded to read the Legal Notice as published in The Berkshire on Saturday, August 12th and August 19, 2017 listing the property at 203 East Harbor Road, property 227-011 and 227-010. She alerted the Applicant’s representatives that the address listed on the project is the physical address of the Ayotte’s home, however, the property identification is correct, She introduced the representatives of Borrego Solar for the Applicant, Thomas and Barbara Ayotte of 203 East Harbor Road. (C. Dean Smith and Ryan Bailey.)
Dean Smith presented an overview of the two parcel solar farm project owned by the Ayotte’s and the plan to develop 20.3 acres. He noted that there has been some clearing of trees for southern exposure. The plan indicated wetlands but a 100 foot buffer zone was considered and an application for a Notice of Intent will be submitted to the Cheshire Conservation Commission. He felt there would be no issue as it is according to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. The fence on the plan indicated a seven (7) foot fence with barbed wire. Although this was on the plans submitted, Mr. Smith’s plan showed a seven (7) foot chained link fence. There will be a lock box on the gate. There is a designated area for the gravel area service pad. It will be a fourteen (14) foot wide graded area with a fifty (50) foot setback on all sides. It will be one hundred twenty three (123) feet from a residence and one hundred (100) feet from the shed.
Deed Restriction. Donna questioned the thirty (30) year residential restriction. Mr. Smith voiced that their company lawyer noted that in Massachusetts there is a thirty (30) year from date and the restriction was no longer in affect. Donna noted that the same deed restriction is on four (4) or more deeds and she would be seeking the legal advice from an independent lawyer at the Applicant’s expense with monies set aside in an interest bearing account to be set up by the Cheshire Planning Board.
Mr. Smith was asked the actual total area to be used. His response was 14%.
Peter Traub: Stated that he would not approve the plan if screening is not met with the satisfaction of the CPB and residents.
Peter Traub: Read from the Cheshire Bylaws the rules and requirement of the installation of a large photovoltaic system in Cheshire. (Copies are available at the Cheshire Annex on Friday afternoons for
$10.00) or you can see them on line at the Cheshire, MA website.
Mr. Smith will be forwarding to Donna a copy of the Lease Agreement with Mr. Ayotte. He stated that there is no emergency plan for the site. He would, at some point, invite the Cheshire Emergency Management committee to view the site and he is willing to work with them to abide by local rulings. There will be small electrical notices along the fence on all sides. There will be a data acquisition system that sends out messages to all staff.
Sandy Sloane: Inquired about only having one access, at the entrance, to the project. Mr. Smith responded that here are four (4) foot gates for emergency gates at least five (5) hundred feet apart on all sides. The project also provides enough space between the rows for a vehicle to drive.
- There will be underground electricity to the pad to the interconnection. A detailed study will specify where additional poles will be placed. No major grading will take place.
Ron DeAngelis: Voiced concern regarding the need for year round screening.
Mr. Smith: Reported that the trees will be native evergreens and will be full to the ground. They will be different sizes and closely spaced. He also said a wooden fence could be considered but with the grading going down and back up he did not think esthetically it would be eye appealing. Again, Mr. Smith wanted recommendations from the CPB.
Ron DeAngelis felt it should have been addressed on the plan submitted.
- Cheshire Highway Superintendent, Blair Crane, questioned where the company was measuring the fifty (50) feet from where? Also, he asked if the trees die or have a fungus who would be responsible for replacement?
Mr. Smith stated that the company’s Operation Division would be responsible and the plants would have a one (1) year warranty for replacement.
Blair Crane wanted to know who is responsible for snow removal. The full entrance will be on East Harbor Road.
Mr. Smith was questioned as to the longevity of the company. He voiced that for fifteen (15) to twenty (20) years they are the largest solar company in Massachusetts and New York State. They are the third (3rd) highest in the USA. They presently have over 2000 sites. He was asked where he lives and would he want it in his backyard. He answered that he lives in New Hampshire and he believes there is only one (1) site in the state. He said the solar farm puts out a sound similar to a house air conditioner and shuts down at night.
Resident, Ted Jayko, asked about the Deed Restrictions. Response: Donna will be researching the deed and will be contacting an independent lawyer for a legal opinion. Mr. Jayko informed the CPB of cases in Hawaii causing medical attention due to eyes suffering side effects from solar glare. There was concern from the audience about glare going toward the South-coming down the hillside. Mr. Smith said only the first racks would cause glare before the morning sunrise, and hour before, and it would be a 15-20 minute glare. He will be submitting independent reports on glare concerns. He noted that the panels have non-glare panels. Mr. Jayko also spoke about the creation of magnetic field and the affect on cows reproducing.
Resident, Ms. Galisa described how heartbreaking it will be to see a commercial project from her front porch. She moved to Cheshire for the beauty, quiet, view, and country charm. With this project would property values in the area of 185 Wells Road go down? Sadly, it now makes it a bad place live.
Mr. Smith: “The company is promoting renewal energy. They are trying to be a good neighbor; there is no noise; no traffic and are being not as impactful and other options might be.”
- Three (3) residents voiced approval of the plan.
Fran Griswold: Questioned if the fence could be black or green. Mr. Smith said, “Whatever cover the CPB wants is possible.”
Colin Ayotte: “Thinks the project is great. No noise. It’s perfect.”
Mr. Smith will provide information on other projects completed in the county. He thought there was a project in North Adams.
Mr. Lincoln questioned how the company could plant trees in wetlands. Mr. Lincoln said he would rather look at deer than rows of solar panels.
Mr. Philippe LaFramboise: Wanted to be sure the CPB investigated the thirty (30) year restriction and to check on the landscaping.
Gene Pierce questioned the property value of abutters. Mr. Dean said, “There was no decline of property values in North County.”
Jim Tworig: Felt it would have the same impact as the Cheshire Elementary School closing.
Brian Tenzar: Questioned the impact on the neighborhood and the scenic and historic value.
Donna felt the impact is less than a wind farm. However, there are no reports to document that statistic.
Resident Ms. Chalmers: Reported that her family can see the entire project. “It is a gorgeous area.” She questioned why it was so close to the Lincoln land. “It will ruin the character and rural charm all the residents moved to Cheshire for. She questioned if an environmental impact analysis had been completed. What is the marketability of her home? A house near a solar farm sells for less than a house without one.
Resident, Matt Lincoln: How many houses will the energy generated serve? Answer: 400-500 homes. “This is a commercial entity. This is A/R zoned.”
Mr. Smith. The Special Permit is for this use only. It is very specific.
Resident, Matt Lincoln questioned if he could build a 7-11 store?
Donna explained the Special Permit process. “If a solar project application is submitted a ½ mile away, it is not a given that the permit will be issued.”
Ryan Bailey: “The limit for building similar projects are nearing an end.”
Resident, Matt Lincoln: Felt houses would be worth 1/3 less. “Is Borrego willing to give him that money lost?”
Resident, Mr. Thurston: Generally he encourages green living. However, he loves the farm land and spoke of his family’s history living in Cheshire. He felt there must be a better place for the project than East Harbor Road.
Resident, Thomas Spratlin: Feels very sad for the +/-5 families directed affected by the owners choice to build a large solar farm where so many families will be directly affected. He questioned the possibility of leakage into the soil.
Mr. Smith: Noted that the panels do not contain anything. If the glass gets broken, it gets replaced. The wiring is per code and is insulated. Underground is sealed. Ground screws are galvanized metal.
Resident, Samantha Lincoln: Wanted to know the reports for Electro Magnetic Fields. Have the studies regarding cancer been reviewed? Donna voiced that Borrego should include independent studies on this topic also.
Resident Philippe LaFramboise: Asked about the poles and if it would be near the end of his driveway? "With trees there will be no scenic views."
- Read from the Town of Cheshire Protective and Planning Zoning bylaws, Adopted on June 8, 2015, Section 10 Special Permits and Variances which outlines the process and procedures for securing a Special Permit in the Town of Cheshire and in accordance with M.G.L. Chapter 40A, Section 3. Protected Health, Safety, and Welfare.
Donna requested from The Borrego Solar Systems, Inc.: An independent technical review.
- An independent review of the thirty (30) year residential deed restriction needs to be submitted in writing if it is indeed valid or invalid.
- An independent report on Electro Magnetic Fields and solar panel glare.
- A vegetation coverage report. (NOI) needs to be submitted to the Cheshire Conservation Committee.
- Requested revised figures for the removal of concrete.
Donna asked, "What if the Cheshire Conservation Commission says, No to your plans?"
- He is confident that there is no impact on the wetlands and the racks are within the buffer zone.
The twenty (20) day appeal process was explained. Donna explained that funds would need to be received and deposited into an escrow account and that t would be placed in an interest bearing account for an independent legal review of the deed restrictions as well a an independent technical review.
- Would like to view the final set of plans whereby everything discussed this evening will be addressed.
- Will provide full studies on the topics requested and will provide definitive information on EMF. Since there were no more questions from the audience and the CPB, Donna motioned to continue the Hearing until Monday, October 23, 2017 at 7:00PM in the Cheshire Annex; 2nd by Peter with a unanimous vote taken.
The Cheshire Planning Board met to note the fact that there will be a Hearing for Sandy Griest Smith, Richmond Hill Road Lot #1 and Lot #2 on September 25, 2017 at 7:30PM at the Cheshire Annex.
Next Meeting: Monday, September 25, 2017 – 7pm – Cheshire Annex.
With all business finalized, Nick motioned to close the meeting at 9:30pm; 2nd by Peter with a unanimous vote taken.
Carole A. Hilderbrand, Secretary
Donna DeFino, Chairman
Peter H. Traub
Ronald W. DeAngelis
Ryan Bailey, Project Developer
C. Dean Smith, P.E.
Borrego Solar Systems, Inc.
55 Technology Drive, Suite 102, Lowell, MA 01851
*** A sign-on sheet showed forty-eight (48) people attended the Hearing.
*** A site visit took place on Saturday, August 12, 2017 at 10:00AM.