The Lisbon Town Council agreed to consider a temporary halt on commercial solar projects at the request of Frost Hill Avenue residents concerned about a solar farm proposed for their neighborhood.
Town Manager Diane Barnes said Wednesday the council vote on Tuesday gave her the go-ahead to work with the town attorney to draft a proposed emergency moratorium. She expects councilors to vote March 16 on pausing commercial solar projects, including the Frost Hill Avenue solar project.
This would give the town up to 90 days to consider rules to regulate commercial solar projects in town.
Peter Larochelle of Frost Hill Avenue told the council Tuesday that he built his house two years ago. He said the proposed solar farm would be right outside his window: “I’ll be looking right at it.”
Larochelle asked the council to pause solar projects so the town can get more information about them and the impact they will have on neighborhoods and the town.
“With this large commercial project in the limited residential zone, I think we should look it over,” Larochelle said. “It’s going to have a huge impact on our neighborhood.”
That solar project, at 101 Frost Hill Ave., was proposed by Borrego Solar Systems, Inc., of Lowell, Mass. Ryan Bailey, the project developer for Borrego Solar, told the planning board on Feb. 11 that the proposed 5-megawatt solar facility would be built on 17 acres of the 73-acre property.
Lisa McDougal of Frost Hill Avenue argued Tuesday the project will lower the value of her property. Her two-story home would face the solar arrays, she said.
“Nobody will want to buy my house with solar panels around half the property when they could buy someone else’s with no solar panels,” McDougal said.
The council stopped short at considering halting previous commercial solar projects approved by the planning board, which Barnes said the town can do as long as no permits were issued. Barnes said this would only apply to one solar project previously approved for Mill Street.
Councilor Don Fellows, the council’s liaison to the planning board and a former planning board member, said the town’s rules don’t specifically address solar farms.
Fellows said he doesn’t think it is ethical for the town to pause projects the town is already reviewing, even if the town can do so legally.
Councilor Norm Albert said he feels it is important to protect residential neighborhoods from commercial solar projects due to a hole in the town’s rules.
“I don’t know that their property values are going to be impacted,” Albert said. “I put myself in their shoes for a minute and think about if my house is worth $200,000 and a solar farm drops in there and I lose 5oK in realized value for my home sale, that’s probably going to throw me into a little bit of a tailspin and make me a little upset.”
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