LUNENBURG – A developer looking to bring a solar farm to property on Chase Road appears to be at a standstill after the Board of Selectmen recently decided not to enter into a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with him.
The proposed project at 651 Chase Road by MASS PVC1 LLC has been in the works since May, and Gus Abalo, the project developer, was before the Board of Selectmen in January asking for them to consider a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, agreement.
Abalo’s lawyer, Scott Fenton, told the board then that the PILOT was the best option for his client because otherwise, the taxes assessed on the property would be more than the profits coming in.
Selectmen Chairman Dave Matthews said he and the other members of the board didn’t feel the PILOT is in the best interest of the community.
“I think he was looking for a free ride on the tax perspective, and he didn’t get that,” Matthews said. “I think he’s waiting for the Legislature to make a move. We decided not to pursue one and to let the assessor figure out what the assessment would be.
“There was no reason to do this,” Matthews added. “There’s no benefit to the town to do it. These solar projects are awash in tax credits. You can’t live free forever.”
Fenton said Abalo had received notice that the town would like him to pay 30 percent of his net income from the project toward the property taxes, something Fenton doesn’t think is appropriate.
“I don’t know of any business
in Massachusetts that operates that way,” Fenton said Wednesday.
He said he has encouraged Abalo to respond to the town’s request and see if another arrangement can be worked out.
“Given the proposal as laid out, I’m not sure it’s feasible to move forward with the project,” he said, but noted that no decision has been made yet.
Abalo, who is president of Miami-based Victus Solar Company, recently received Planning Board approval for a 24-acre solar-farm project in Millbury.
Concerns about the Lunenburg project were raised in the fall, when the company made a formal presentation before the Green Communities Task Force that the panels will be installed in an area zoned residential, rather than commercial.
The proposal calls for installing solar panels on about 25 acres of a 110-acre parcel, with three solar arrays that will be fenced off individually. Security cameras would be monitored remotely, and there would be a small office on the property.
The Lunenburg project is one of 18 across the state that Abalo is looking to develop.
Baron Bowser, whose property abuts the proposed project, has been against the development coming in, but said he can understand why the developer would want a PILOT agreement.
Ultimately, however, Bowser said the town is in a dire financial situation, and he doesn’t feel a PILOT agreement is in its best interest.
“To me, where they’re planning to put it in frustrates,” Boswer said. “But I’m also a businessman and I understand numbers. My battle to prevent them from getting in is a large uphill battle. If they are paying taxes and the town can benefit from the taxes, now I have to be a realist.”
He said if the decision were left up to him, the project would be going somewhere else in town.
“If I had my druthers, they shouldn’t be here and they shouldn’t be on Electric Avenue,” he said. “They should be pushing them toward the water district and the landfill and rewrite the bylaw to protect themselves. I’ll keep my fight going, but I have to be realistic.”
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