“It’s a fraction of its original size,” said Kleo Taliadouros, of Ameresco, a solar development company.
The original plan would have required many large and very old trees to be felled. A historic farmhouse and barns will still have to be removed because there can’t be two uses on a parcel, in this case commercial and residential.
At the latest hearing before the Planning Board, representatives of the solar development company said old stone walls will not be touched and a much smaller number of trees — 10,000 square feet — will have to be cut because the solar array will be put on land that is already cleared and used for agriculture.
The original master plan for the property “was to clear the entire wooded area,” said Chris Duhamel of DiPrete Engineering, who outlined for the board how the company is addressing concerns raised at previous meetings on the plan.
Duhamel said the smaller proposed solar array will be more cost effective.
Planning Board member Rosemary Eva wants documentation showing the newest plan and the developer’s intention not to develop anything more on the land once the new plan is approved and recorded.
A master plan for 35 acres of solar panels was previously approved by the board.
Wingover would house one of three large solar arrays proposed for farmland in town under an old solar ordinance that the Town Council a year ago repealed because it unintentionally allowed wide swaths of farmland to be used for solar arrays. A new solar ordinance has been written by the Planning Board but still needs to go before the council for review before it can be approved.
There are two cemeteries on the property, each on one side of a stone wall, but the boundaries of the cemeteries are not known, according to Bob Martin and Jim Spears, co-chairmen of the town’s Historical Cemeteries Commission. They asked the developers to allow them access to the land to try to determine the boundaries and the number of headstones and burials.
The developers plan to install cedar half rail fencing around the cemeteries. Development around cemeteries, by law, can be no closer than 25 feet.
Susan Anderson, chairwoman of the town’s Historic Preservation Advisory Board, said five generations of the Hart family lived on the farm. She said the farmhouse predates the Revolutionary War.
The farm has an airstrip- thus its name Wingover — that was used by Herb Cavaca, a noted rum runner who flew a plane from the fields regularly as part of his business. Anderson said she understands that there are bullet holes in the walls of the farmhouse from a hijacking that occurred there during rum running days, and said there was supposedly a hideout in the loft of the barn for the booze, and she’d like the developers to somehow document that before taking the buildings down.
A 10,000-gallon cistern will still be installed on the property, Duhamel said. The farm on Crandall Road is in an area of town where there are no fire hydrants so the cistern can aid the fire department in firefighting in that area of town.
There are several documents the Planning Board is requiring from the developers, including an operations and maintenance plan, decommissioning plan and insurance to provide money for decommissioning if the developer fails to remove the solar equipment after its decades-long life. Renderings of what the neighbors of the farm may see once the array is in place are also required, in addition to an emergency response plan, and a noise study.
Developers said there would be no noticeable noise from the array.
Construction could take 6 to 9 months once all approvals and permits are in place.
The continuation of a public hearing on the preliminary plan is slated for Jan. 7 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.