WHITMAN — A special permit and site plan approval application for a solar farm consisting of 3,940 panels and associated equipment has been granted leave to withdraw without prejudice by the Zoning Board of Appeals Monday, March 13.
The vote, necessitated by a clerical error on the part of one landowner and the petitioner, BrightEnergies of Los Angeles, will permit the company to re-apply when the error — which identified the wrong parcel address — is corrected.
The address had been identified as 81 Bedford St., instead of 0 Bedford St., which is the correct address, according to company managing partner Jon LoCascio. The error resulted in an incorrect or incomplete list of abutters notified about the 7 p.m. hearing.
ZBA Chairman John Goldrosen did allow members of the board and interested residents attending to ask general questions about the solar farm proposal.
LoCascio said the proposal would be brought back regarding 0 Bedford St., and that the address mistake had been brought to the company’s attention about 30 days ago.
Goldrosen noted that, once a hearing is advertised in the newspaper, a hearing must be held.
Member Wayne Andrews said the site plan as submitted as “no good” as it is not to scale and does not show any topographical contours or accurate abutters.
“Everything is missing from this site plan,” he said, advising that the company review Whitman’s zoning regulations.
Building Inspector Robert Curran said his impression was that the company planned to revise the site plan. He also reminded ZBA members that Whitman has become a Green Community and that he had forwarded a copy of the regulation revisions reflecting that status.
“There’s provisions for solar or alternative energy in our bylaw,” Curran said.
Goldrosen also read into the hearing record letters from the Planning Board, Conservation Commission and Fire Chief Timothy Grenno, listing concerns about the plan as submitted.
The Conservation Commission expressed concern over any wetlands impact on the site and planners noted questions about determination of the location of the Brockton water line and whether there would be an easement conflict before being able to approve the plan. Grenno requested engineered road access on three sides of the property; a solid surface, such as crushed stone, for ground cover; weed and overgrowth containment; gated access with a lock the fire department can open and training for public safety departments.
“It may turn out you can’t put everything there that you want,” Goldrosen said about the wetlands issue.
Board member Steven Cacciatore also asked about safety including whether the electricity can be turned off in an emergency and the potential for the solar panels to be hot enough to spark brush fires.
“We’re just asking because we don’t know,” he said. “This has not come up to us before. … We want to know if there’s going to be a problem.”
LoCascio said he is more often asked how it’s going to work in the snow, assuring the board that the farm would have a rapid shutdown system to control fire risk when panels reach a certain temperature.
Andrews sought information on how the project would benefit the town.
“The great thing about this project is all the energy is going to the town, so we would be discounting and saving the town money reducing the town’s overall cost for electricity,” LoCascio said. He said the output of about 1.9 megawatts would lock in energy costs for municipal buildings for 20 years.
Curran added that the town would have to enter into an energy-purchase agreement with BrightEnergies. The difficulty in gauging the effect of those savings stems from a recent change to LED lighting.
“We can’t take historical electric bills and use those in any way for this,” Curran said. “But by the time this all goes through, the town will know what its average monthly bill is.”
BrightEnergies would own the solar equipment, but lease the property.
Board members were also interested in learning of other area solar farms and any problems encountered with the facilities.
Abutter Jackie Alger, owner of Wag This Way dog daycare also had some questions for the board’s consideration — water runoff, wetlands, possible requirement of a retention pond, access during construction, how inspections would be handled, dust control plans during construction, work hours and temporary electrical power during construction, noise, tree removal, traffic and security fence plans.