DARTMOUTH – The developer of a huge solar farm jeopardized by new zoning restrictions said she won’t build wind turbines as an alternative.
“A lot of the neighbors close by would see the wind,” said Mary O’Donnell of No Fossil Fuel Dartmouth Solar. “The best community use is the solar.”
This marks a reversal of a statement O’Donnell made last month, when she said the land off Fisher Road would house either a solar farm or wind farm.
“I’ve spent so much time and money on it,” she said Wednesday. But “I thought about it and the reason why I went to solar is because the closest neighbors didn’t want (wind).”
Both types of energy projects are now barred at the site and at the scale O’Donnell is proposing. A special Town Meeting vote in April barred large solar farms from residential zones and last Tuesday’s annual Town Meeting vote restricted commercial wind turbines to industrial zones.
O’Donnell plans to build a 21,000-panel, 6-megawatt solar farm on the Fisher Road residential property by applying for a variance. She said the land is far removed from neighbors.
She described the project as a partnership between her company, No Fossil Fuel, and Philip DeMoranville of King Fisher Corp., which owns the land.
O’Donnell’s plans were previously allowed “as-of-right” in Dartmouth, meaning they didn’t require a special permit, under a bylaw Town Meeting members adopted last year. That right ended abruptly in April when residents upset about ConEdison Development’s installation of more than 9,000 solar panels on Hixville Road made a successful push to block large solar farms from residential areas.
Planning Director Donald Perry described this action as allowing a “temporary moratorium” until a revised solar bylaw could be developed for consideration at fall Town Meeting.
But meanwhile, since O’Donnell failed to grandfather her project under the old bylaw, she must receive a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals. Last month, O’Donnell threatened to build a wind farm if the board refused her variance request. “This time, for sure, I’ll be grandfathered,” she said at the time.
If she isn’t grandfathered, this Plan B will also now be blocked, thanks to Tuesday’s Town Meeting action. By the required two-thirds majority, members voted to restrict wind projects larger than 10 kilowatts to limited industrial and general industrial zones. These zones total about 5.1 square miles, or about 7.9 percent of the town, according to Michael O’Reilly, environmental affairs coordinator.
“There really isn’t any support from the community at large for commercial-sized wind turbines on residential properties,” said Select Board Chairwoman Lara Stone, whose board recommended the bylaw change 4-1. “Would I say we’re against having turbines in Dartmouth? No. … But we don’t see there being a value in placing commercial-sized turbines in residential zones.”
O’Donnell said she didn’t know if her right to build a wind project had been grandfathered, but said she doesn’t intend to move forward with those plans anyway.
The Zoning Board is scheduled to resume its public hearing on O’Donnell’s variance request on June 19.
Last month’s hearing drew about 30 people on both sides of the issue, including residents who live miles from the Fisher Road site.
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