Will Carver’s solar saga soon be coming to an end?
It’s no secret that solar has been a hot issue in Carver. After a year of debating, negotiating, listening and researching, the Solar Bylaw Committee has put together a bylaw that it thinks the town will accept at Thursday’s Special Town Meeting.
The issues started in the summer of 2011, when residents were shocked by a developer’s plans to construct a large-scale solar array only feet from their homes on Purchase Street. At the time the project was the first large ground-mounted solar photovoltaic array proposed within the town, and there were no precedents to follow or bylaws to abide by.
With no bylaw in place, the Planning Board had to comply with state guidelines and approved the project, angering many residents of Carver and neighboring Middleborough. To not let that happen again, a Solar Bylaw Committee was formed to craft a bylaw that will keep unwanted solar projects out of people’s backyards.
“That gave us an indication that we needed a solar bylaw, because we had so many applications in front of us,” Solar Bylaw Committee Chairman Will Sinclair said.
Most residents agreed there should be strict setback and buffering requirements spelled out in the bylaw. The sticking point for many was whether the town should allow large ground-mounted arrays in residential/agricultural areas at all.
After hearing what residents had to say at last year’s Town Meeting regarding a proposed bylaw, the committee took the time to iron out the details.
On the warrant for the Special Town Meeting is a bylaw, crafted by the Solar Bylaw Committee, which spells out all the requirements for large solar arrays. The proposed bylaw allows large-scale solar arrays in residential and agriculturally zoned areas by special permit granted by the Planning Board.
The bylaw states setbacks must be at least 50 feet on the applicant’s property for all large-scale arrays, but if it is in a residential or agricultural area, that setback must not be less than 200 feet on all lot lines abutting the RA district.
The bylaw also spells out requirements for buffering and hiding projects from sight.
“Every abutting property shall be visually and acoustically screened from the installation through either existing vegetation or new plantings of not less than 8 feet in height at the time of planting, staggered at a spacing of no more than 8 feet apart throughout the required setback dimensions,” the bylaw states.
Sinclair believes the combination of strict setback and buffering requirements and the ability of the Planning Board to allow arrays on special permit can satisfy residents on either side of the argument.
“The issue was simple. We have an RA district, which is residential and agricultural all mixed into one district,” he said. “To remove the opportunity for a land owner, whether it is a bog owner or a farmer or someone with a very large piece of property, to not allow them the opportunity for economic development in producing their own power was a problem for me.”
“We were looking for an opportunity where we could come up with some requirements that would allow this to happen if people had the amount of land but also give the tools to the Planning Board to say no or restrict it to lessen the impact on the neighbors,” he added.
In addition, the bylaw includes requirements for the planning, construction and ongoing maintenance of a large-scale array.
Residents will have their say on whether they approve this proposed bylaw at the Special Town Meeting Thursday, Dec. 6, at 7 p.m. at Carver Middle High School. Copies of the proposed bylaw can be found in the Planning Department or on the Special Town Meeting warrant posted on the town’s website.