China planners unanimously approve application for solar expansion

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members have unanimously approved an application for an expansion of Sunraise Investments’ planned solar farm on the south side of Route 3, between South China Village and Dirigo Corner.

Board members held a very short public hearing on the revised application March 8. There were no comments from the sparse audience, and Codes Officer Jaime Hanson said he had received no comments before the hearing.

Board members reviewed the criteria the project needs to meet, with brief discussions of noise (none, once construction is complete, SunRaise representatives said); screening along the highway and between the solar panels and neighboring properties; and the effect on property values.

Board member Walter Bennett said a solar array “wouldn’t be an attractive thing to have next door to me.” Board Chairman Scott Rollins pointed out that one of the neighbors is leasing land to SunRaise.

Board members voted that Sunraise met all requirements for a revised permit allowing a larger project than initially approved.

The SunRaise review was followed by discussion of amendments to China’s Land Use Ordinance. Planners hope to present three separate changes to voters at the June 14 town business meeting.

One is a new Chapter 8 titled “Solar Energy Systems Ordinance.” Rollins reminded members that the town attorney had offered suggestions, and read some of them.

The board voted unanimously to forward the ordinance as it stands to the China Select Board, with a request that it be put on the June 14 town meeting warrant.

Members scheduled a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 15, to put the other two proposed amendments, to Chapters 2 and 11 of the Land Use Ordinance, in final form.

They intend to schedule a public informational hearing on all three documents. No hearing date was set.

Copies of the ordinances are on the Town of China website, The Land Use Ordinance is under Ordinances, Policies and Orders. The draft solar ordinance and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection letter describing needed changes in the Land Use Ordinance are under Officials, Board & Committees, sub-heading “Planning Board”.


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