Town of Otis, Massachusetts
ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS
MINUTES January 5, 2019 Approved
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, and RoseAnn DeRupo, Kathy Couch
ZBA Members: (Absent) Sara Skibski, Michael Ernst
Applicant: Gina Wolfman for Clean Focus Renewables
Public Attendees: Larry Gould, James Crandall, Charles Schwartz, Haley Couch
Meeting at convened 7:00 pm
Therese Gould opened the meeting at 7:00 pm. Introductions of the board members were made.
Point of Order:
- Nominate RoseAnn DeRupo as a “full member” of the Zoning Board of Appeals. Jim Kauffman made the motion, Geoff Geane seconded the motion. All in favor.
- Haley Couch will be the assistant to the clerk tonight. Kathy Couch will be a voting member 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.
Terry read the public notice. The abutters’ notifications were mailed on December 24, 2018. No abutters’ notices were returned. The town boards were notified on December 18, 2018. The public notice was printed in the Berkshire Eagle on December 24, 2018, and December 31, 2018. No emails or letters for or against this application were received. We received one notice undeliverable.
Gina Wolfman is at the meeting representing Clean Focus Renewables, Green Skies Renewable Energy, the lessee of The Federowicz’ property. Ms. Wolfman provided background about the company. Green Skies Energy:
- They own work on all the solar projects. They design, construct, own, operate and maintain all projects. They have construction management oversight. The work is done “in house” they do the engineering, electrical design and come up with a schedule and plan. A site plan is made for logistics, material staging, and storage, safety, and
- They currently have 220 MW spread over 350 sites around the country and 19 states.
- They perform weekly inspections with daily and weekly monitoring and reporting. There is constant monitoring.
Ms. Wolfman submitted an updated stormwater report along with a new site plan. The site plan now has the entry on Knox Road instead of Ticonderoga Rd. The parcel they would like to build on is in the R-40 district with approximately 1500’ of frontage on Algerie Rd. The parcel is around 94 acres. The lease area is 50 acres.
The entire project will encompass about 30 acres of land. The proposed project is set back from the wetlands Ms. Wolfman sited C-201. The proposed project is on a mounded site.
They are proposing to build a 4.8 Megawatt solar array with 2 separate battery storage units of 280 kW hours for battery storage. Each of the battery units will have internal fire suppression. They are roughly 40 feet.
Green Skies works on Eversource’s power grid. The nearest three phase connection is at the intersection of Algerie Road and East Otis Road, less than a half mile south of the site. Green Skies would run the lines underground along the access road, then the pole locations will be determined by the impact study that is currently underway.
Geoff Geane asked about the owner of the land. Ms. Wolfman said that the project is owned by Green Skies and the land is leased from the owners, The Federowicz.
There will be a chain-link security fence around the entire project. The solar array will accessible through a locked 20’ wide double swing gate with a coded lock so the town can have easy access. The fencing will be raised 6 to 8 inches to allow the wildlife to go underneath.
Green Skies worked with the Historical Commission and the parties agreed that there will be a 7-foot cedar fence with plantings in front of it to screen the project from the historic Knox Trail. This will be on the southern side. The project will be 100 feet from the Knox Trail.
There will not be any collection basins on site. Green Skies will be following the EPA guidelines. The site will be cleared five acres at a time. At that time the area will be stabilized. There is an RDA was submitted and approved by The Otis Conservation Commission on December 13, 2018. The project is completely away from the wetlands and there are 100-foot buffers from the wetlands. There was a negative finding.
RoseAnn DeRupo asked about the length of the lease agreement. Ms. Wolfman stated that the lease agreement is renewable after 20 years she is not 100% sure. This is the general term also renewed after that time.
Larry Gould asked what plans are in place for decommissioning is there a clause in the lease? Ms. Wolfman stated that usually the process is outlined in the zoning bylaws which the Town of Otis does not currently have. Ms. Wolfman does not have a plan outlined by Green Skies for this to submit to the board. Larry Gould stated that it is the company’s job to restore the site to its original state. Ms. Wolfman stated that the company has funds put aside. Ms. Wolfman stated there should be surety agreement in the packet. Larry Gould stated that there is no information on the process in the initial application.
Kathy Couch stated that the umbrella and general liability insurance is currently expired on the COI that was submitted to the board in the application. Ms. Wolfman will submit an updated one. Terry Gould stated that this will be needed along with needing a decommissioning plan.
Green Skies will be putting in educational signage along the Knox Trail. There will be a sign on the chain-link fence with the emergency contact information. Kathy Couch stated she thought a special permit will be needed the signage.
RoseAnn asked if the panels are updated with any technology changes. Ms. Wolfman stated that the panels are not replaced often with technological changes. The solar fields are not typically redesigned.
Ms. Wolfman main issue throughout the with most solar fields is stormwater or the runoff. RoseAnn asked how long has Green Skies been in business and any negative issues on any of their sites. Ms. Wolfman replied that the main concern on most projects is stormwater runoff and cannot see that issue at this site due to the fact it is already a mounded site.
Terry Gould closed the public portion of the hearing at 7:23 pm
Geoff Geane wanted to know who the permit would be granted to. The permit would be granted to Green Skies/ Clean Focus Renewables. What happens to the permit if there is a default on the lease? Larry Gould stated that once the lease agreement is broken, the special permit would be in violation of the conditions. This would make the special permit null and void.
Kathy Couch as permitted use on R-40 property the bylaws in town state you may erect a 4-6 foot fence.
Ms. Wolfman stated that this is in the plan however there is no detail about the fence. Larry Gould stated that a six to eight-foot fence would need to have a special permit. Kathy thought that the 7-foot fencing should be included in the conditions. There was no that the cedar fencing detail in the plans submitted to the board. Let’s cover everything that will be needed to be as conditions on the special permit.
Terry Gould this project falls under light industrial in the Otis Bylaws under permitted uses and definition.
Terry Gould more information from the applicant on the Cedar fencing, updated liability insurance, the decommissioning plan is needed. Terry Gould feels that the board can’t move forward without this information.
Ms. Wolfman said usually the decommissioning plan is the cost to remove all structures on the site. They project the cost for it in 20years from now. Larry Gould wants to know how the decommissioning is determined. Ms. Wolfman is not sure of how that really works. RoseAnn who is responsible between the owner and Green Skies for the cost of decommissioning and returning the site to original condition.
Terry Gould cited Otis bylaw 6.5.15& 16: the town’s solar bylaw in regards to a bond and surety The Board members reviewed this to use as a guideline for the conditions of the special permit. Kathy Couch made copies of Becket’s bylaws which are similar to North Brookfield. She suggested we use them as a guideline.
Ms. Wolfman passed out a copy of North Brookfield, MA bylaws one of the current towns they are working with. Kathy made copies and passed out. The board members review them. Terry stated she is very hesitant about moving forward with granting the permit this evening. Terry feels that a written decommissioning plan needs to be presented to the board. She suggested we continue the meeting until next month. The next scheduled meeting is Monday, February 4, 2019.
Kathy Couch asked if there would be sirens or alarms or perimeter lighting, as they are not allowed under the bylaws. Ms. Wolfman stated that was not in the plans.
Geoff Geane made a motion to continue the meeting until February 4, 2019. Jim Kauffman seconded the motion.
A unanimous vote from all members. Ms. Wolfman asked if we could approve the permit tonight with conditions. Terry Gould stated that we need to have the decommissioning plan is a real sticking point. We need to make sure we don’t rush this and look at the best interest of the town.
A copy of the Becket bylaws was handed out to the members. Larry thought we shouldn’t just copy other towns’ solar bylaws. We need to look at our bylaws for the condition. We should look at the cellphone bylaws. Discussion of some of the conditions that could be drawn up using our bylaws. RoseAnn DeRupo said we use North Brookfield’s bylaws and remove the final sentence to and condition the removal decommissioning is at the cost of the applicant.
Jim Kauffman asked if in the last ten years have any of the solar projects that Green Skies maintained has been decommissioned. Ms. Wolfman stated that she is unsure if any have been.
Geoff Geane asked if we are getting out if the scope of what the ZBA does. Why are we trying to write the regulations?? Terry Gould responded that before we had a cellphone tower bylaws the board has to draft and compose the conditions. The conditions were made on the cellphone then the Town of Otis made the bylaws. Geoff said he wasn’t sure that the board could do this without outside assistance. Larry Gould said it is beyond the scope of the ZBA, we should not be using other towns’ bylaws as a complete source. We should be making condition upon what documents the applicant will provide.
Geoff wanted to know what the applicant was missing so that we can move forward with the special permit. Terry Gould stated that the applicant needs to provide the board with an updated insurance liability and decommissioning plan.
Jim Kauffman asked what type of lease agreement was between the applicant and owners? He asked about a triple net lease. Ms. Wolfman stated she was unsure who was paying the property taxes. Kathy Couch asked what happens if the property is foreclosed on? Ms. Wolfman thinks they pay the taxes on the asset who plays the taxes on the land. RoseAnn DeRupo asked about definitions, when decommissioning and abandonment happens that should be defined. Larry Gould suggested that there must be a notification made to the Town of Otis any lease breach.
Kathy Couch asked if we need to see the contract with Eversource? Terry Gould felt that it is not needed. Larry Gould also felt that if any portion of this project fails to meet Eversource’s standards and procedures the project will not even begin.
Agenda item #2 – Receive update from Building Inspector, Larry Gould
Discussion: Larry Gould has nothing to report.
Agenda item #3 –Update for the next meeting
Discussion: This hearing will be continued until February 4, 2019. Currently, there are no applications in the mailbox. Deadline is 2 pm on Wednesday.
Agenda item #5 – Mail
Discussion: The Planning Board will be having a site plan hearing on Monday, Januarys 14, 2019 at 7 pm at the Town Hall
Agenda item #6 – Minutes
Discussion: The minutes from November 5, 2018 meeting were accepted as written. Terry Gould made a motion to accept. Geoff Geane seconded. A unanimous vote of the board members to accept the minutes.
Agenda item #7– Old/New business:
Jim Kauffman made a motion to adjourn the meeting. RoseAnn DeRupo seconded the motion, all in favor.
Meeting adjourned at 8:10 pm.
Clerk Zoning Board