Driveway Permit Paves the Way for Devens Solar Farm

MassDevelopment’s plans to build a solar facility on Devens’ north post had a local speed bump to clear before moving forward. Now, the project is good to go.

Access to the site required a driveway cut on Hazen Road, which is the selectmen’s call. But the board had to clear up a few concerns before granting the permit.

The solar farm project already has its permit from the Devens Enterprise Commission, (DEC) which is the sole permitting authority for the former military base when the driveway permit request came before the selectmen at a previous meeting.

The request was tabled at that time, pending resolution of concerns the selectmen had about creating a potentially risky five-way intersection at the proposed driveway location.

At the recent selectmen’s meeting, Chief Administrative Officer Dave Berry told the board that he had met with all parties and that those issues had been addressed.

The group included DPW foreman Paul Farrar, GPR engineers, MassDevelopment officials and representatives from Citizens’ Energy, the firm the state agency has hired to build the solar facility. Site perimeters border Shirley along Hazen and Walker roads.

Berry listed conditions that would be attached to the driveway permit.

– The first 20 feet of the driveway will be paved.

– A gate will be installed at the end of the driveway with signage that says “Authorized Vehicles Only.”

– Entry and Exit signs will be posted on Walker Road during construction.

– Protective guards will be installed over catch basins.

– Flag crews will direct traffic at the intersection when work is in progress.

– Police details will be added when necessary.

– With many trees marked for cutting, “strong preference” is noted for work crews to haul the logs away as work progresses.

– Devens Enterprise Commission, which issued the project permit, limits work hours to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. on school days, to minimize issues with buses.

– Chairman David Swain added one more condition: Work must cease at 5 p.m.

– The engineer, Calvin R. Goldsmith, of GPR, said that won’t be a problem.

Asked about traffic entering and exiting the solar site via the new driveway, Goldsmith said post-construction use would be “light” and construction should take about three to six months. After that, a pickup truck will visit the site monthly to check equipment, and a similar-sized vehicle would show up for cleaning and maintenance “about twice a year,” he said.

As for the five-way intersection and angled turns that could be tricky for tractor-trailer trucks, it’s temporary, he said, and there will be traffic control, as cited in the conditions.

The selectmen voted to approve the driveway permit.

$60K Offered For Old Municipal Building

In other business, CAO David Berry told the board a local man submitted the only bid in response to a request for proposals he recently sent out at the board’s instruction to sell two vacant, town-owned buildings: The old library and the old municipal building, both on Lancaster Road.

The bid was for the former municipal building, a re-purposed old brick schoolhouse that served Shirley’s town hall until the new Town Offices building replaced it.

The offer was $60,000. The potential buyer proposes converting the building into three or four residential apartments. Berry posited that since the area is currently zoned R-1, for residential, single-family homes, a multi-unit conversion would require a special permit.

Selectman Kendra Dumont said the offer seemed low and she’d like the board to negotiate with the potential buyer to come up with a mutually acceptable price.

Chairman David Swain agreed. With Andy Deveau absent, he was the only other board member present. The two selectmen also agreed the proponent should have the zoning permit lined up before they sit down with him.

There were no offers on the old Hazen Memorial Library, but the selectmen told Berry they want to wait awhile before deciding whether or not to re-send the RFP.

Despite Auction Date, Town’s First Refusal Right for Hill Lane Home Still Intact

The town may not want to buy the house on Hill Lane that was recently foreclosed on by the mortgage holder, but the selectmen have the right to consider that option, and a scheduled auction will have to be postponed.

Purchased by a private party under affordable housing restrictions, a “Right of First Refusal” clause in the contract gives the selectmen 30 days to decide on it for the town.

But they didn’t get the notice. “The attorneys didn’t properly notify the town,” CAO Dave Berry said. Thus the lender must hold off on the public auction set for March 16.

The 30-day clock starts ticking when the legal notice is received.

Berry also noted that according to contract terms, if the house sells at auction at a profit – that is, for a price higher than the amount due the lender – the town gets the difference.

— M. E. Jones