Developer challenges proposed Wareham solar bylaw

By Matthew Bernat | Sep 11, 2017

While the Planning Board mulls recommending a new solar bylaw restricting the location of future arrays, a Massachusetts-based solar company wants members to reconsider.

In its current form, the bylaw would prohibit ground-mounted solar arrays from all residential areas in Wareham, limiting arrays to industrial, institutional marine and commercial districts.

The new bylaw was drafted following complaints filed by neighbors of some of the town’s existing solar arrays, said Director of Planning & Community Development Ken Buckland. Currently, eight solar farms have been built.

Due to a lack of local regulations, solar arrays recently built on County Road and Hathaway Street were cause for concern. Specifically, noise caused by the array's “inverters,” which are used to change a direct current to an alternating current, prompted the complaints.

“We found solar farms were being built too close to residential properties, reducing the quality of life and property values,” said Buckland.

State law prohibits cities and towns from banning solar projects outright or placing them under “unreasonable” restrictions. Other provisions of Wareham’s draft bylaw include setback requirements and design standards.

On Monday night, the Planning Board reviewed the bylaw at a public hearing where it was challenged by Attorney Richard Serkey, speaking on behalf of Bluewave Capital.

Officials from the Boston-based solar developer said they have plans to build a solar farm near A.D. Makepeace Property. Those plans have not been formally submitted to the town yet.

Serkey said by limiting projects to the non-residential areas the board is effectively banning ground-mounted solar arrays. He noted that the town’s commercial and industrial areas would be better suited for business development. Also, they lack the large, open space required for solar arrays.

“How much land in those areas would be the highest and best use for solar arrays?” asked Serkey. “This is too blunt an instrument to accomplish what you’re trying to accomplish.”

He urged board members to work with Bluewave Capital in drafting a “finely tuned” bylaw.

Board member Michael Fitzgerald opposed drafting a bylaw that allows solar arrays in residential areas.

“Solar is not necessarily a good neighbor,” he said.

According to Fitzgerald, solar projects are not a good use of the town’s open space. That land should be reserved for conservation or future homes, he said.

Serkey countered that should the bylaw, which must be approved by voters at Town Meeting, pass it would have the opposite effect the Planning Board intended.

He said property owners looking to develop solar projects could use a state law to avoid the local regulation. By filing a special request, developers could avoid the bylaw’s restriction for three years, said Serkey.

“If you proceed with the bylaw…landowners will submit plans between now and Town Meeting to freeze the use of the land,” said Serkey, adding that opens up residential land to solar development anyways.

After hearing Bluewave’s arguments, board members said more information was needed before they decide to recommend the bylaw as written or rewrite it.

The board will discuss the bylaw further at its next meeting, scheduled for Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. in the Multi-Service Center.

Comments (6)
Posted by: Spherebreaker | Sep 12, 2017 08:03

Solar power sucks and is a hideous blight.

Posted by: Peaches0409 | Sep 12, 2017 08:18

I'm still trying to figure out how every frigging tree on the end of Toby Road was clear cut for a solar farm that nobody in the town seemed to know a thing about!! How does THAT happen?

Posted by: Uptohere | Sep 12, 2017 11:20

If a town is FORCED to accept what the people di not want then they can put it where we want it. Residential is just that for the residents. And just how and what is going in on Toby. I always read about the town but this seems like it was snuck in and how is it even legal.

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Sep 12, 2017 11:56

I'm certainly not a tree-hugger but don't clear-cut visible land near houses for these ugly things!


Solar should utilize space that's already utilized or space that nobody cares about.  New Bedford put an array on top of an otherwise unusable Superfund Site (near where Cinema 140 was) without objection.  Upper Cape Tech School put an array on a canopy above the parking lot without objection. Wareham Fire District put a solar array way far out in Seawood Springs without objection.  Solar is placed on flat rooftops all the time without objection.  What about Wareham High's roof? Wareham Middle's roof?  What about putting more out in the vast woods where Wareham Fire District put theirs? Out of sight, out of mind.


Here's a thought for the Solar Bylaw Committee.  Why doesn't the town designate remote locations where they would welcome solar arrays?  Create a "Solar District" up in the north near the power lines for easy connection to the grid. There's acres of woods and miles of unpaved access roads up there without a house anywhere. That way all developers can be deferred to a special area instead of going after the land next to my house, or the land next to your house, or the pretty land that we all drive by every day.

Posted by: Andrea Smith | Sep 12, 2017 17:09

Peaches - Is solar what is going into the area of Tobey Road across from the side of Target and extending down to Main Street? I have twice heard Olive Garden is going in there, but then I've also heard Olive Garden is going into the former Wareham Pharmacy property.

Posted by: Peaches0409 | Sep 13, 2017 09:19

Andrea, Nstar wants to put in a solar field. How this happened without anyone knowing is beyond me!

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