Friday, January 26, 2024

Raymond residents oppose solar farm installation in neighborhood

By Ed Pierce

Residents living in the Pulpit Rock Road and Twin Pines neighborhood near Thomas Pond off Route 302 in Raymond are hoping the Raymond Planning Board rejects a proposal when it meets in March to install a 996 kWac ground mounted solar power generation facility on a property near their homes.

The Wallace home at 30 Pulpit Rock Road is in sight of the 
fence line of a proposed solar farm project in Raymond.

Allen Solar, LLC submitted the proposal to the Raymond Planning Board in October and seeks to locate the Mainely Solar facility on Roosevelt Trail on a lot owned by Scott and Aimme Allen with access to the project area through a lot owned by Scott Allen using the existing Raymond Marine entrance to Roosevelt Trail. The project lots amount to 17,817 square feet and intend to occupy about 6.8 acres located within the town’s Rural Residential District and portions are within the Shoreland Zone, Limited Residential/Recreation District.

The project will also require approval from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers filling a small 325-square-foot wetland to support project access. The solar company says the property will be fenced and buffers and setbacks will be deployed to minimize visual impact.


Laurie Wallace, whose property abuts the proposed project, says that acreage for the proposed site is hilly, heavily wooded and filled with vernal pools, critical wetlands and streams that run downhill directly into Thomas Pond.

“It is the habitat of many birds, four-legged animals, and amphibians,” she said. “We support energy sources other than fossil fuels. But placing a commercial solar farm in this sensitive ecosystem can ultimately do more harm than good. Raymond is considering making commitments to an industry that could, if unchecked, harm the pristine environment in which we’ve chosen to live. If this specific project is allowed to move forward, it could set a dangerous precedent in Raymond and the Lakes Region.”

Wallace said the Thomas Pond watershed feeds directly into Sebago Lake, the source of drinking water for thousands in the Greater Portland region.

Dave Hall, another abutter to the proposed solar farm who lives at 32 Pulpit Rock Road, said this project doesn’t fit in that neighborhood.

“My family has lived in the neighborhood since the houses were built in 1983. What I object to about the proposed solar project is leasing the land for a commercial project does not seem like something that should happen in a residential neighborhood,” Hall said. “The planning board seems to have allowed solar projects in residential zones with no safeguards to protect the surrounding property owners. They did not create reasonable setbacks or other rules that would have kept this project from being planned to have seven acres of solar panels start 150 feet from a person’s house. The property is a watershed of Thomas Pond, just below the project is a stream running into Thomas Pond. We are concerned our property values will go down with an industrial business venture going on behind our houses. The town’s comprehensive plan states that proposals and projects should not impact way of life and property values. When asked at the public forum the planning board said," that is not the basis of decision making. " It seems like it should be. Our neighborhoods are in danger from plans like this. We keep saying this is the wrong property for a project like this.”

Jennifer Danzig also lives in a home which abuts the project. She and her husband have lived there since 1998 and raised three children and says she taught her children to be good stewards of the environment and the community and for those reasons she opposes the project.

“The proposed solar project is a private, for-profit, commercial solar farm which requires clearing 7-plus acres of forest land designated as rural residential located in between Route 302 and the shoreland zone of Thomas Pond. It is an environmentally sensitive area that just isn’t the right location for this project,” Danzig said. “This forested area is the home to many birds, four-legged animals, and amphibians that will be displaced which will impact the local ecosystem. In addition, the proposed site is hilly and full of vernal pools, wetlands, and streams that run downhill directly into Thomas Pond.”

Danzig says without the current acreage of forested canopy in this area providing protection against increasingly severe rain and windstorms that residents there could experience even more runoff and potential flooding.

“The Thomas Pond watershed feeds directly into the Sebago Lake watershed which provides drinking water to local residents, and to the City of Portland. So not only will this project severely impact the privacy and serenity of the Thomas Pond residents, but health and safety issues could arise, and property values could be adversely impacted,” she said. “Many other Maine towns have moratoriums on these projects until more research becomes available regarding all of the unintended consequences of such installations. Raymond Waterways Protective Association states all of the lakes, ponds, and brooks in Raymond are physically connected; consequently, many people in Raymond and neighboring towns beyond those on Thomas Pond could be affected by this proposed project. If allowed to move forward, it could set a dangerous precedent for this type of installation in other rural residential neighborhoods around the lakes in our community.”

Company response

Dave Fowler of Mainely Solar says that his company has more than 22 years of experience developing responsible renewable energy projects across Maine and that the proposed Allen Solar project is a 1MW solar facility that will help ensure that Maine reaches its goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2040.

“Landowner rights are among the most important aspects to consider when developing any project. The town has adopted a solar ordinance that allows the use in the Town of Raymond to ensure those rights don’t burden the neighbors,” Fowler said. “Our project meets all of the land use standards that Raymond has adopted. Given the feedback from the planning board process, we have voluntarily agreed to increase the setback from the abutting property line. While we will be clearing approximately 4.5 acres of land for the solar panels, equal to 2 to 3 house lots, the environmental and life safety impacts will be significantly less.”

Fowler said the field will be mowed no more than two times per year, compared to lawns, which are mowed as frequently as needed and that minimizes runoff.

“We will not be using any fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides frequently used by many of the homes in the Thomas Pond watershed,” he said. “Stormwater from the project’s impervious surface and the existing impervious and developed areas will be captured, treated, and discharged at the same peak flow rate as it does today. To further protect Thomas Pond's water quality, a site-specific erosion and sedimentation control plan has been developed for construction. The seed mix used will be pollinator-friendly and fire-resistant.”

According to Fowler, the project will include a fire suppression system consisting of a 10,000 cistern and a network of piping and fire standpipes and the fence surrounding the project will include multiple gates with knock boxes, allowing Raymond Fire and Rescue to respond to emergencies.

He refuted objections about lowered property values, saying numerous studies show that solar projects of this size do not impact property values.

“At the same time, you can undoubtedly find studies on the internet that have contradictory opinions. There is no study with conclusive findings of adverse impact,” Fowler said. “We understand that there are concerns regarding impacts to the environmental resource. All protected natural resources within the parcel have been identified by licensed professional scientists in accordance with Maine DEP and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers standards. The project has been designed to avoid and minimize impacts to these resources to the greatest extent, meeting all local, Maine DEP, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rules and standards. The local code enforcement officer, the local civil engineer, and the fire department have reviewed the project. Many abutting lot owners who have expressed concerns, enjoy using the Allen property without verbal or written permission. That is expected to continue except for the 4.5 acres that will be fenced.”

The Raymond Planning Board will meet on March 13 to discuss the proposal. <

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your Comments Help Improve Your Community.