China planners approve second solar development

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members have unanimously approved a second solar development by SunRaise Development LLC, this one on land leased from Daniel Ouellette on the south side of Route 3 (Belfast Road), near the China Area Wash and Dry.

The May 19 virtual planning board meeting began with a public hearing. No one from the public had signed in to speak at the hearing, and Codes Officer Bill Butler said he received no advance comments or questions.

Board members then compared SunRaise’s application to the criteria in China’s Land Use Ordinance and voted unanimously that the project met all requirements. They added conditions duplicating those in SunRaise’s earlier permit for a larger solar project off Route 32 South (Windsor Road): no more than three buildings on the site, no mowing before mid-July without prior approval (to protect ground-nesting birds) and provision of a surety bond.

SunRaise spokesman Lisa Vickers said the Route 3 project requires cutting trees taller than eight feet along the west boundary of the property. They will be replaced by native evergreens, she said, and the planning board specified native species only.

After board members completed action on the SunRaise application, Butler had two more questions for them.

The first was whether they had seen, or wanted to see, a draft ordinance regulating what are called hobby farms, non-commercial farm activities.

Butler said about two years ago a Hanson Road resident questioned the presence of multiple farm animals, including chickens and horses, on his neighbor’s property. Butler said former Codes Officer Paul Mitnik and Town Manager Dennis Heath drafted a hobby farms ordinance; neither of the two longest-serving planning board members, Toni Wall and Jim Wilkens, remembered seeing it.

Wall, acting chairman May 19 in Tom Miragliuolo’s absence, asked Butler to send copies of the draft to current board members for future discussion.

Butler’s second issue involved Amanda Gower’s Little Learners Child Development Center, on Tyler Road. The facility has a town license for 49 children, he said; pre-pandemic enrollment was 75. It appears that 75 children will not exceed space, septic tank capacity or any other standard; but the state threatens to revoke Gower’s state license unless she is in conformity with the town license.

Butler’s question to board members was whether Gower needs to file a complete re-application for the expansion in enrollment. Board members agreed unanimously that she did. They plan to review an application at their June 9 meeting if Gower submits it in time.


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