SHIRLEY — As the recent Annual Town Meeting drew to a close in its second night, a Patterson Road resident raised a question about the last item on the warrant.
Article 19 sought authorization for the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Assessors to negotiate and enter into “payment in lieu of tax agreements” with solar farm developers, notably, National Grid.
It looked like a relatively routine issue that has come up before for existing facilities or others still in the works. This proposal, however, is new and pertains to the proposed construction of a solar array on two parcels of town-owned land off Patterson Road, on the east side near the town gravel pit.
The proponent is National Grid.
The resident wanted assurances that the solar farm wouldn’t be a neighborhood eyesore. “This is across from residences,” he said. “How far back (from the road) will it be?”
Another resident asked about the proposed facility’s proximity to Parker and Peabody roads and the Wayside Trailer Park on Clark Road, all of which could conceivably be within eyeshot through the woods, depending on “how far back” the site goes.
Bryan Dumont, chairman of the Energy Committee, which worked with the utility company to pinpoint a suitable site and sketch out a preliminary proposal, said the project is still in the early planning stages. He could not pinpoint its location or provide exact dimensions yet.
But National Grid has promised it won’t be visible from people’s homes, Dumont said.
In fact, it’s a blanket promise from National Grid for all such facilities, he said, adding that neither the EC nor the selectmen would support proposed solar projects otherwise.
In this instance, the only direct abutters are the DPW and the Shirley Water District, he said. Once the plans are completed, they must go to the Planning Board for site plan review, Dumont said, at which time a public hearing will be held, with abutters notified.
In addition to Planning Board oversight, the project might have to pass muster with the Conservation Commission to ensure compliance with wetlands laws, he said, and if so, the commission would also hold a public hearing.