SHIRLEY — A planned solar facility on Patterson Road recently suffered the latest in a serious of setbacks when an appeal halted work in progress. Again.
Now, there are two appeals wending their separate ways through state and local bureaucracies, upping the appeals total to three filed against the project so far.
The two recent appeals were filed with Mass DEP and the Shirley ZBA, respectively.
The first appeal, filed with DEP, was granted.
Saga so far
Solar City, the California firm hired by National Grid to build the Patterson Road solar facility and TTI Environmental, Inc., the in-state engineering contractor working on the project — slated for two adjoining parcels of town-owned and Water District land — had only recently made it through a second permitting round when the new appeals surfaced.
The petitioners are abutters and other citizens whose stated concerns include land use and zoning issues and environmental side effects from construction and other aspects of the nascent solar facility, which promises municipal revenue via lease and tax agreements.
Appeals aside, the project faced challenges early on, such as reconfiguring the site to meet Natural Heritage requirements and accommodate a rare species of turtle. Originally sited on one parcel of town-owned land, the site was divided so that the turtle’s disrupted nesting places could be recreated.
The split map resulted in a somewhat downsized footprint (fewer solar panels) and an engineering plan that sparked opposition: drilling beneath a brook on one parcel to run an underground electrical conduit to the other.
But the stop-and-go project cycle predates the drilling plan. It began when an initial permit the Planning Board granted for the 2.5 megawatt facility was appealed.
DEP granted the appeal, which was based in part on the premise that the site plan review process was flawed and incomplete, sending the project back through the permit pipeline and proponents back to the drawing board.
After a public hearing with substantial public input, the Planning Board again issued a special permit, this time with more data to go on and a longer list of conditions attached.
The Conservation Commission — which had a say because there’s a stream on the site and a town well next door — held a separate, multi-part hearing and granted the required permit with its own Orders of Conditions, allowing the solar project to move forward.
Fall-back on hold
A public hearing for another proposed Solar City project on National Grid land on Kittredge Road remains on the Planning Board docket at the applicants’ request.
Continued without discussion over several sessions, the agenda item is reportedly a placeholder, in case the Patterson Road deal falls through.
The continued public hearing was on Monday’s Planning Board agenda but the meeting was canceled due to lack of a quorum.
Meanwhile, the Patterson Road solar project appeal sent to the ZBA has been received and will likely be so noted at its meeting this week. But according to the land use clerk, the board will not take it up until January, when a public hearing can be scheduled.