Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 11-21-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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NO. SMITHFIELD BLACKSTONE WOONSOCKET EDITION | VALLEY BREEZE | NOVEMBER 21-27, 2019 NORTH SMITHFIELD 7 the program currently has a 30-mega- watt cap on the amount of energy that can be generated by community solar projects. Last week, Schoch said he hopes the state expands the program, which has already reached the 30-megawatt maximum. The first community solar farm in the state opened earlier this year in Burrillville, and Turning Point Energy is currently developing another in West Greenwich. Gov. Gina Raimondo also expressed her support for community solar during the groundbreaking and said she hopes the state enables more of this type of project in the future. "This is where we need to go, and we need to go even faster," she said. "It's not only necessary for climate change, but to meet the needs of Rhode Islanders." NORTH SMITHFIELD – In a pattern that's repeated itself on solar policy issues, councilors and other town officials remained divided on Monday after hearing from the pub- lic on proposed changes to the town's solar zoning ordinance. The changes, prepared by the Planning Board, are intended to incentivize solar on already devel- oped areas and discourage it in areas that require clear-cutting of forest. In October, the council declared a moratorium on any new solar appli- cations to allow time to develop the changes. Speaking to the Town Council, Town Planner Tom Kravitz said the real power of the changes lies in relaxing the requirements for solar installations in business parks and on already developed land, allowing it by right instead of requiring a special use permit. "The idea there is to see if they can draw some of the attention away from the forest and toward those existing build spaces," he said. That idea drew strong opposi- tion from Town Administrator Gary Ezovski, who said he believes the special use permits are an important part of the town's oversight. Ezovski also raised concerns that steering solar farms toward industrial property could limit the town's potential com- mercial development. "If we allow solar farms to eat up our existing industrial property, we have nowhere to put jobs," he said. Ezovski said he believes concerns over solar are primarily related to aesthetics and sees the changes as a reaction to Green Development's pro- posed 38-megawatt facility. Planning Board member Jeff Porter defended the proposed changes, say- ing they were driven by concern for the environmental impact of solar farms. Several members of the public also raised concerns over the environ- ment, though they differed in their approach to the issue. Paul Roselli, president of the Burrillville Land Trust, recommended against a provi- sion that would allow the board to request solar companies replace trees on a one-to-one ratio. Instead, he said, the board should require com- panies to do a forestry study prior to clearing any lands to ascertain what types of trees are on the property. Cynthia Roberts, a town resident who's advocated for more oversight of the solar industry, said many resi- dents want policies that steer solar to already disturbed areas. "Some of it is aesthetic, but I really think more people's concerns about solar are less aesthetic and more about what it's doing to the land and the ecology," she said. Paul Soares, chairman of the town's Conservation Commission, said the commission is in favor of any policy that disincentivizes clear cutting of forest. Council President Paul Vadenais took issue with the tree replacement policy, saying it unfairly targeted solar developers and not other types of developers. "You're being selective in who you're putting this thing on, and it's not fair," he said. Councilor Teresa Bartomioli expressed support for changes that would give the town greater protec- tion in the event a company aban- doned a solar array. Ideally, she said, she would like to see the town be able to impose a tax lien on property owners who fail to dismantle unused solar farms. Councilors held off on voting on the proposed changes pending fur- ther discussion. The town's solar moratorium expires on Dec. 2. Councilors also failed to reach an agreement on a measure that would place all tangible tax revenue from solar farms in a separate capital proj- ects fund. After much debate over the uses of the funds and how best to allocate them, councilors voted 3-2, with Douglas Osier Jr. and Paul Zwolenski voting against, to hold off on the measure until after the town's Asset Management Commission releases their 10-year report. That report is expected to come out early next year. Zoning changes spark debate over town's solar future By LAUREN CLEM Valley Breeze Staff Writer lauren@valleybreeze.com ACCESS From Page Onew Parks and Recreation to host open community forum NORTH SMITHFIELD – The North Smithfield Parks and Recreation Commission is host- ing an open community forum on Saturday, Nov. 23, from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at Primrose Fire Station, 1470 Providence Pike. Residents are invit- ed to attend and share their thoughts and ideas for improving the quality of the town. Light refreshments will be served. Park in the back of the sta- tion.

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