Town of Otis, Massachusetts
ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS
February 4, 2019
Meeting held at Otis Town Hall
1 North Main Road, Otis, MA
7:00 pm – 8:10 pm
ZBA Members: (Present) Therese Gould, James Kauffman, Geoffrey Geane, RoseAnn DeRupo, Kathy Couch
ZBA Members: (Absent) Sara Skibski, Michael Ernst
Applicant: Gina Wolfman for Clean Focus Renewables
Public Attendees: Larry Gould, James Adams, Laurel Adams, Edward Herbst, Charles Schwartz, Haley Couch, Pamela Federowicz, Donna Terrill
Meeting at convened 7:00 pm
Therese Gould, chair, opened the meeting at 7:00 pm. Introductions of the board members were made.
Point of Order:
- Haley Couch will be the assistant to the clerk tonight. Kathy Couch will be a voting member and the clerk this evening.
Agenda item #1 – To hear and act upon the application of Clean Focus Renewables for a Zoning By-Law Special Permit under 9.3 of the Otis Zoning by-laws, as to install, own, operate, and maintain a solar array at 0 Algerie Road, Otis, MA. The lot is owned by Jesse Federowicz and Pamela L. Federowicz. The lot is listed in the Otis assessor’s records as Lot # 85 on Map 16, Algerie Rd., Otis, MA. This is a continuation of the January 5, 2019 meeting.
Terry Gould read the public notice. Terry submitted and read into the record a letter giving a review of last month’s hearing. Laurel Adams requested and received a copy.
Gina Wolfman, Clean Focus Renewables, gave an overview of the company and the proposed project. Clean Focus Renewables/ Green Skies designs, constructs, owns and maintains the project from start to finish.
The property they proposing to put the solar array on is a 93.5-acre parcel. The lease area is 50 acres. The
project site will cover about 30 acres. Some of the areas have already been disturbed from previous logging. The stormwater management report has determined there is a negligible difference between current and proposed conditions.
There will be 4.8 Megawatt A/C with two 280 kw hour batteries for storage. The batteries are self-contained with internal fire suppression. Eversource is the electric company that will be using the power that is generated.
The nearest three phase connection is about ½ mile away on East Otis Road.
The historic Knox Trail passes alongside the perimeter of the proposed project. Green Skies has worked with the Historical Commission and has addressed their concerns with the project. There is no impact on the site.
Green Skies is not developing in the wetlands. The project site is away from the buffers of the wetlands.
There will be fencing around the perimeter of the property. The fencing will be raised about 6 inches to allow wildlife to pass under the fencing. The access will be off Algerie Road using the former Knox Avenue.
Conservation Commission has given a negative determination. The Natural Heritage did not find any protected
species in the proposed project site.
James Adams had questions on the project. He is a property owner near Algerie Road. He is not a direct abutter to this project. Mr. Adams wanted to know how and why this site was chosen. Mr. Adams believes that “this is the worst place to put the project.” Ms. Wolfman stated that she did not know the process of how the sites are selected. She is in the development department of the project; she is not part of the site choosing process.
Ms. Gould stated that the application has already been heard and acted upon by the Conservation Commission. The Conservation Commission has given a negative determination on this project.
The application has met all the criteria that the Conservation Commission requires.
Any environmental questions that someone has must addressed to the Conservation Commission. Terry mentioned that a copy of the application packet was available for review at the Town Clerk’s office.
Mr. Adams had questions on the batteries. Information was copied and given to him.
Ed Herbst, an abutter on Algerie Road has questions on the where the project was sited on the property. Larry Gould showed the outlines of the project and buffer zones. Larry explained to Mr. Herbst. that the project site was 1000 feet from his property line and then another 1000 feet from his house.
Laurel Adams stated that she felt that not enough people were not notified of the solar project. That only the abutters 300 feet from the project were notified. There are hundreds of property owners around Algerie that she felt should have been notified. Ms. Adams stated she knows of people that are opposed to this project that didn’t know anything about it until this meeting. They are second home owners and are not in town during the winter.
Terry Gould stated that all meetings and agendas are posted online and in the Town Hall as requested by the Secretary of State.
Kathy Couch, clerk, stated that the public notices for the January meeting went out on December 24, 2018.
On January 3, 2019, she mailed the public notices that the hearing was continued. Kathy also explained that
there is an abutters list that is certified by the Assessor’s office. Kathy stated that there was no phone
messages or letters for or against the project in the ZBA mailbox or the email account. There was a letter that was forwarded from the Selectman’s office regarding this project. There were two abutters’letters returned undeliverable. There are no records that she currently has other than the letter that was forwarded by the selectmen’s office.
Mrs. Adams wanted to know how many letters were mailed out. Mrs. Adams reviewed of the certified list Discussion of the timing of the application and project. Kathy explained that there are guidelines under MGL that must be followed when the ZBA receives an application.
Mr. Adams questioned the access of the site, stating Algerie Road was already in disrepair and wanted to know what impact this project would have on the road. Ms. Wolfman stated one truck in and out at a time on the job site; Algerie Road should not be greatly impacted. Terry Gould stated that the traffic flow and would be similar to someone building a large house on Algerie Road.
Mrs. Adams stated that Knox Ave was a wetland. Ms. Wolfman stated that the access road is not in the wetlands. Gina Wolfman showed the entrance to the project on the map in relation to the wetlands and buffer zones.
Mr. Adams had concerns over the endangered species. He believes that there are nesting bald eagles on Big Pond. Terry stated that would be a concern that should have been addressed to the Conservation Commission, not the Zoning Board. Terry Gould stated that environmental concerns are not what the Zoning Board hears. The Zoning Board hears applications such as solar projects, cell towers, building setbacks, etc.
Ms. Wolfman stated that Green Skies had sent a letter and submitted an application to the State regarding any protected animals in the project site. The State’s response was that there were no mapped habitats of endangered or threatened species.
Mrs. Adams stated that she was very skeptical of this project. She felt that the timing of the during the winter so that many people could not object and the project was just going to be pushed through. She stated there are abutters are against the solar array.
Mr. Adams wanted to know what assurances there were that the project was going to be only on the 30 acres. Terry stated that the project must be built to the plans submitted to the board. The permit is only given to the approved plans.
Terry Gould read the definition of the “Light Industrial” use which the application is granted under.
Terry Gould closed the public portion of the hearing at 7:30 pm.
RoseAnn DeRupo had questions about the decommissioning. RoseAnn wanted to how the cost basis of decommissioning was calculated. Ms. Wolfman stated that there cost estimating group does this based on the current industries’ fees. There is also a financial surety bond included in the decommissioning packet.
A list of conditions was made by Kathy Couch and the board reviewed her suggestions. Kathy would like to allow a permit to construct and maintain 7-foot cedar fencing. Also, a permit for a sign regarding
Contact information. Larry Gould didn’t think that the sign permit was not necessary because it would fall under the MGL. Larry reviewed the suggestions presented and stated the recommendations he thought that should be as conditions.
Kathy Couch made a motion to accept the plans as submitted to the board. With the following conditions:
- The construction and operation of the solar array installation shall be in accordance with all applicable local, state and federal requirements.
- An operation and maintenance plan must be filed yearly with the Building Inspector. This plan shall include measures to maintain safe access to the ground-mounted PV solar installation, stormwater controls, as well as general operational maintenance of the installation.
- The owner or operator shall provide a copy of the project summary, electrical schematic, and site plan to the local Fire Chief. Upon request, the owner or operator shall cooperate with the local emergency services in developing an emergency response plan. All means of shutting down the ground-mounted PV solar installation shall be clearly marked.
- The owner or operator shall physically remove ground-mounted PV solar installation no more than 150 days after the date of discontinued operations. The owner or operator shall notify the Building Inspector by certified mail of the proposed date of discontinued operations and plans for removal.
The motion was seconded by Jim Kauffman. Terry Gould, RoseAnn DeRupo, and Geoff Geane voted in favor grant the special permit for the solar array.
The application did satisfy the mandatory provisions of MGL, Chapter 40A, and other pertinent statutes and the zoning by-laws of the Town of Otis.
Chairman advised the applicant that the special permit will sit in abeyance for 20 days with the town clerk. The applicant can pick the notice of decision and filing up on the 21st day. Then file the permit with the Registry of Deeds in Pittsfield then bring the receipt of filing to the building inspector for the building permit. Failure to file or act upon the permit within two years will make the special permit null and void.
Agenda item #2– Minutes
Discussion: The minutes from January 5, 2019 meeting with were accepted with changes. Terry Gould made a motion to accept. Geoff Geane seconded, all in favor. Kathy obstained form the vote.
Agenda item #3 – Receive update from Building Inspector, Larry Gould
Discussion: Larry Gould stated that there is an application on the horizon; the next application would be a variance.
Agenda item #4 –Update for the next meeting
Discussion: There is an application for the March 4, 2019 meeting. Deadline is 2 pm on Wednesday. Discussion on who would be available for upcoming hearings. Geoff would be unavailable March & April. Jim would be unavailable in April.
Agenda item #5 – Mail
Discussion: Nothing to hand out
Agenda item #6– Old/New business:
Discussion: Audience member introduced herself, Donna Terrill, a former ZBA member and Otis resident. . She was at the meeting to keep up to date of what was going on in town.
Jim Kauffman made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Geoff Geane seconded the motion, all in favor.
Meeting adjourned at 8:10 pm.
Clerk Zoning Board