Friday, March 11, 2022

Windham nixes moratorium for solar projects

The Windham Town Council will not impose a moratorium 
on solar development in the town after residents on Linnell
Road objected to a new solar project there which abuts
their property. The council's Ordinance Committee will
review existing ordinances pertaining to solar and see if
updates are needed. COURTESY PHOTO     
By Ed Pierce

After consuming much of the Windham Town Council’s attention over the course of the past month, the idea of councilors imposing a moratorium for solar projects was voted down by a vote of 4-3 during a lengthy town council meeting on Tuesday evening.

At the meeting, supporters and opponents of a moratorium on solar projects were given time to share their thoughts in advance of the Windham Planning Board’s March 14 public hearing and final plan review of a Green Lantern Solar project near Linnell Road in North Windham.

The project would abut three residences on Linnell Road, and those residents advocated for the council to impose a moratorium until Windham’s ordinance for solar projects could be reviewed, clarified, and updated.

The project off Linnell Road calls for a 50-foot buffer between the project and abutting properties, fencing and the loss of some trees to create the solar array.

Louise Densmore lives on Linnell Road and told councilors she didn’t see how the buffer could be defined without a moratorium.

Pam Hageny, whose property abuts the project said she is not opposed to solar projects but thinks a moratorium was proper for this circumstance.

“The destruction of plant growth within a 50-foot buffer basically eliminates any semblance of protection the 50-foot buffer provides under the ordinance,” she said.

Another abutter to the project, Howland Bickerstaff that he was concerned about the project and where the buffer would be.

But Green Lantern Solar developer Geoff Sparrow told the council that the project has met all required zoning requirements mandated by the town and clarified what he said were some misconceptions shared on social media prior to Tuesday’s meeting.

Sparrow said that there is no road planned for inside the buffer and no studies have shown that having a solar project near residences reduces property values. He said some mature trees would have to be removed for the project but that would have to be approved by the Windham Planning Board.

According to Sparrow, there would not be any clear cutting of trees on the project property and a cedar fence would be installed 35 feet from the property line around the solar arrays.

He also told councilors that the project has a 35-year life span and that the solar panels are recyclable, made of tempered glass with components inside encased in silicone in case they were to be damaged during a hurricane.

Engineer Aubrey Strause of Acorn Engineering, Inc. told the council that that buffer screening plan for the Green Lantern project calls for some trees at the site to be removed, but a new buffer of young evergreens would be planted which would grow as the site progressed through the years.

During the meeting, it was also pointed out that the deeding for the original Mineral Springs Neighborhood Association which Linnell Road is a part of called for residences to have a 50-foot buffer to the parcel where the solar project site will be located.

Attorney Elizabeth Buckley who represents another solar project in Windham told councilors that in order to impose a moratorium, there must be a necessity for one and she said that Windham already had adequate solar development controls in place.

Councilors Brett Jones, Nicholas Kalogerakis and William Reiner said they thought a moratorium would be prudent so the current solar ordinance could be reviewed and updated as needed.

Windham Town Council Chair Jarrod Maxfield said a moratorium wasn’t needed as the town could review the ordinance through its Ordinance Committee and this issue did not meet the standard of an emergency.

He said each of the councilors had studied the issue, researched, and spent many hours trying to determine the best solution for everyone concerned.

Maxfield, along with Councilors David Nadeau, Ed Ohmott and Mark Morrison voted against imposing a moratorium, with Councilors William Reiner, Brett Jones and Kalogerakis voting in favor of a moratorium. <

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