Editor’s note: After this letter was submitted, at its meeting on Aug. 27 the Planning Board voted to recommend Town Meeting take no action on the article regarding the Commercial Photovoltaic Solar Overlay District map. The move was made in an effort to limit turnout and discussion at Town Meeting due to the pandemic.
At Town Meeting on September 12 an article will be presented for vote on approving a solar overlay zoning map. The intent of this map is to define areas in town that are most appropriate for large-scale industrial commercial solar farms. The map isn’t perfect and I believe should be tweaked to add and remove certain plots, but it is a great first step in restraining the invasion of profit-motivated solar developers to the detriment of our town’s unique character.
The solar overlay map will have no impact on residents and businesses in the community installing solar panels on their homes or in their backyards. This only applies to large-scale installations (over 3 acres). Most of these installations are Big Solar businesses looking to exploit towns that still have significant swaths of undeveloped land. This means towns like Hopkinton, which is blessed with many patches of forest and undeveloped land sprinkled throughout its residential neighborhoods.
You may be thinking, well, the town would never allow a solar power plant on my street or in my backyard. We are in a residential area. We have wells. The surrounding properties are forested, are refuges for wildlife, are protected wetlands, are historically protected or are on a hillside, visible for miles. Well, ask the residents on Wilson Street, Frankland Road, Fawn Ridge Road or Teresa Road if any of that matters. The Planning Board has made it clear that it feels it is powerless to disallow these massive power plants in residential neighborhoods, and unable to prevent the detriment to the town they cause, without passage of this solar overlay article.
Also, passage of this article does not automatically allow developers to install a solar farm in the areas marked on the map as preferred locations. The developer must still go through the permitting process as they do now. So if any object to the inclusion of some locations, you are no worse off by passing the article as you are right now, but you have started a process, opened a dialogue and shown support for initiating proactive town planning.
Please join me in voting in favor of this article as a first step toward making sure we have responsible solar development in our town — development that does not create unsightly blights throughout our town or destroy the very environment that the solar alternative is supposed to be protecting.
— Thom Robertson, Hopkinton
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