Vassalboro Riverside Drive solar project gets final approval

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro Planning Board members had three items on their Sept. 1 agenda and approved all of them, including final approval of another solar project in town.

The solar project is Longroad Energy’s development on land leased from Oak Grove Farm, LLC, at 2579 Riverside Drive (Route 201). As explained at previous meetings and at a sparsely-attended July 28 hearing, the project will cover about 27 acres and needs both state and local permits.

Kara Moody, one of Longroad’s two representatives at Vassalboro meetings, said the state Department of Environmental Protection reported today their state application has been found complete. Assuming state approval, her colleague, David Kane, anticipates work starting at the end of mud season next year. Construction should take about four months, he estimated.

The project is surrounded by trees on three sides, with a field on the east. Kane said some taller trees will be cut to avoid shading the panels, but clearing will be limited as much as possible.

The panels will not be fixed facing south, but will rotate to follow the sun from east to west. Kane said the panels will be high enough not to create a glare problem for drivers on Riverside Drive.

Planning board members found no adverse effects on the environment or neighbors and approved the project. Afterward, board Chairman Virginia Brackett, a teacher, mentioned the possibility of field trips to the installation. Kane, a former science teacher, said teachers and students would be welcome.

Board members also accepted the roadside screening plan for the previously-approved solar array on Bernard Welch’s land on Main Street (Route 32), between North and East Vassalboro.

Al Copping from ReVision Energy said a plan was developed in consultation with the state Department of Transportation and Steven Jones from Fieldstone Gardens in Vassalboro. It calls for 15 to 20 shrubs, a mix of forsythia, lilac and viburnum (chosen because they are supposed to be salt-tolerant and not attractive to deer).

The shrubs are to be planted in the spring of 2021. They will be about 10 feet apart and far enough from the roadway to allow for the state’s planned, and repeatedly postponed, reconstruction of Route 32. Copping said Welch has volunteered to help maintain the planting.

The third application Sept. 1 was from Edward Zinck, to add deck space at his Webber Pond camp. There will be no expansion toward the water, he said, and Codes Officer Paul Mitnik said the addition is within the size limit in the local shoreland ordinance.

Planning Board members approved Zinck’s permit, subject to state approval.

Mitnik announced that he plans to retire from the Vassalboro job in April 2021 – the third time he has retired, he said, and this time he intends to stick to it.

The next Vassalboro Planning Board meeting should be Tuesday evening, Oct. 6.


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