Solar project tops Wendell agenda

Staff Writer
Friday, February 16, 2018

WENDELL — Today is the last day to register to vote before a special town meeting scheduled at the end of the month, the results of which could impact a proposed community solar project.

Topping the agenda for that meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 27, starting at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall, is a question to transfer 97 Wendell Depot Road to the Selectboard’s control to host a proposed 1.33-acre third-party community solar project on the land.

“Until we are able to authorize them to do this, they can’t move forward,” said Town Coordinator Nancy Aldrich. “The Selectboard supports it, but it’s not a town group. Whether or not it happens is up to them.”

Another item would transfer “the care, custody and control of the dwelling house” located there to the Selectboard “for the purpose of sale or other conveyance,” including demolition.

A third question asks constituents “to authorize the Selectboard and the Board of Assessors to negotiate and enter into a payment in lieu of taxes agreement known as a ‘PILOT’ agreement or ‘tax agreement’” with “a solar renewable energy generation facility to be installed and operated on the town-owned property.”

“It has been going through land court for a while, and the town took custody,” Aldrich said, noting that it was a part of the former Lake Grove-Maple Valley School.

If the project does move forward, residents who might not have adequate room for their own solar panels could buy into the community array. Under current designs, most of the land wouldn’t be covered by solar panels, because some of it is classified wetlands or blocked by easements. There has been talk about building playing fields on the unused space.

At this week’s Selectboard meeting, Brandon Stack of Kemsley Academy, told the board the prep school was interested in buying the land and keeping the house intact.

However, Chairwoman Christine Heard said that while the town might be interested in sharing the playing fields with the academy, the solar project is moving forward, although Selectman Jeoffrey Pooser said there are still some obstacles. Stack said he will return to the board at a later date to discuss the academy’s interest.

Other agenda items

Also on the warrant are two articles pertaining to the Municipal Light Plant board. Both ask constituents if they’d like to elect their own board members instead of the current arrangement of putting the responsibility on the Selectboard. However, one, which was put onto the agenda by town officials, would create the elected board in 2019, the other, a citizen’s petition, would post voting this coming May.

At a recent Selectboard meeting, the board argued that there are too many unresolved issues and it’s too risky to replace the Municipal Light Plant board while the “last mile” for broadband internet access is being constructed.

A few other housecleaning items include paying bills, and a question to transfer $45,000 “from available funds for the Bridge Replacement Project at Wendell Depot, for the purpose of payment to Verizon and or National Grid for costs associated with the removal and replacement of three utility poles,” according to the warrant.

In order to register to vote, visit the Town Clerk’s office in the Town Hall from 9 a.m. to noon; 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 8 p.m. For more information, contact Gretchen Smith or Sheila Rowe at 978-544-3395, ext. 2.

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