Harwich Planning Board by HC121003063044


									                               Harwich Planning Board
                               Town Hall, Griffin Room
                              Tuesday, November 22, 2011
                                   Meeting Minutes

I. The meeting was called to order at 6:30 pm with the following members present:

Members                                               Planning Staff
Joseph McParland                                      David Spitz, Town Planner
Peter de Bakker                                       Elizabeth Hayes, Recording Sec.
Matthew McCaffery
Tom Stello
Alan Atkinson - Alternate Member

The following members were absent: Ron Nordstrom, John Follas, Allan Peterson. Alan

II. Minutes
The September 13th and October 25th, 2011 minutes were approved unanimously on a
motion by Mr. de Bakker and seconded by Mr. McCaffery.

III. Briefings
   a. Harwich Middle School Repurposing Committee
Joseph McParland will serve as the Planning Board representative on the Harwich Middle
School Repurposing Committee. It might also be attractive to a major company for a
headquarters, as it might attract a company involved in research and development. This
might be done with some type of tax incentives from the Town. There may also be some
interest in seeing the property used for senior housing. It was also noted that it will be
served by fiber optic as part of the Open Cape LLC connection.

There was a brief discussion about Open Cape and the scope of service to the Town Hall
and the Police and Fire Stations. Open Cape will not service end users, though big
businesses will likely be able to negotiate individually or will be able to access it through
other retail connecters.

   b. Water Quality Task Force
   According to Mr. Spitz there are now three options: the landfill site in East Harwich,
   with treatment in Chatham and without treatment in Chatham. Mr. McCaffery
   indicated that the Citizen’s Advisory met and has another suggestion.

IV. New Business
    Board of Appeals for November, 2011

The Planning Board members have no opinions on the scheduled cases.

V. PB2011-31 American Capital Energy, Inc. (ACE) c/o Stephen P. Wiehe, Weston &
Sampson seeks approval of Site Plan Review for the construction and maintenance of a
large-scale, ground-mounted, solar photovoltaic (PV) energy generation facility with
appurtenant structures. Additionally, approval of said PV project will retire the current
post-closure use of the site which allows the flying of model airplanes. A special permit
for the proposal is required pursuant to the Harwich Code section 325-55.C.

      Steve Wiehe of Weston & Sampson introduced Eric McClean of American
       Capital Energy, Ron Collins of Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative (CVEC)
       and Barry Worth, the Town of Harwich Utility & Energy Conservation
       Committee Chairman. As a preliminary matter, Mr. Wiener submitted the
       returned certified mail green cards giving notice to abutters of this hearing.

      Mr. Wiehe stated that ACE was one of many companies who responded to a
       request from the town of Harwich to submit a bid to develop a solar photovoltaic
       project on a closed landfill in the town. Mr. Wiehe explained that the Green
       Communities Act has a special carve-out for solar power, so the Cape and
       Vineyard Electric Cooperative has an obligation to develop solar power. Mr.
       Wiehe submitted that this use falls within the definition of a municipal project,
       per the Harwich by-laws, in that it will benefit the town monetarily and is on
       municipal land.

      Mr. McCaffery stated that he believes the Board disagrees with his interpretation
       that this is a municipal project that requires the Planning Board to waive the fee.
       He stated that ACE is a private entity leasing space from the Town.

      Mr. Spitz said that the only issue affected by this determination would be the
       question of the fee waiver.

      It was noted that the contract is between the town of Harwich and Barnstable
       County Cape and Vineyard Electric Coop, not with ACE directly.

      Mr. Wiehe stated that this will be a controlled site and that this project will retire
       the current post-closure use which allows the model airplane club access to fly
       their planes. There will be screening and no permanent parking is anticipated.
       Mr. Wiehe stated that he met Mr. Spitz and the Harwich Fire Captain and ACE is
       prepared to comply with any conditions recommended to ensure the safe and
       adequate access to the site by the Fire Department in the unlikely event of a fire.

      Mr. Wiehe noted that this will be a 4 mega watt facility containing17000 solar
       panels. The site is located at 205 Queen Anne Road, which contains
       approximately 128 acres, of which 15.5 acres will be used for the project. An
       interconnection agreement with NSTAR has already filed. They have also filed
       an application with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for a post
       closure use application, and they are working on a few engineering questions DEP
       has. He expects approval by the DEP in the near future. Mr. Weihe emphasized

    that the DEP has been advocating for the use of landfills for photovoltaic energy
    generation sites for the last four years. He further stated that this site is within a
    light industrial zoning district and is not within the Harwich Historic District, nor
    are there any habitat or wetland concerns.

   Mr. Wiehe showed a number of slides showing the 128 acres and the 15.5 area of
    concentration. Mr. Wiehe pointed out that the panels will be situated where the
    land is as flat as possible. Some of the pathways are existing drainage swales,
    which they do not intend to disturb. ACE recognizes that the Treasure Chest is on
    the property and they know the hours when it is open, but they believe that when
    the project is under construction the vehicles coming on the site will be there prior
    to the time the Treasure Chest opens and will be there after the closing times.
    There is an existing road that goes around the perimeter. There will be temporary
    roads built during construction time. Final road access would be subject to final
    approval and inspection by the Harwich fire chief.

   Mr. McCaffery asked that the applicant keep in close contact with the Planning
    Department. Once construction of the site gets underway, if there are going to be
    significant changes to the plan, the Planning Board may need to provide approval.

   Mr. McParland noted that the Harwich Police Department suggests that the
    property be fenced in entirely. Mr. Wiehe responded that generally speaking most
    of the property is fenced and the array is behind the chain link fence; so while
    they may add some additional fencing, if needed, they are satisfied that access to
    the site is already restricted by the town. It was also noted that there are multiple
    invertors on the property, which are accessible by walking or ATVs.

   Mr. Wiehe stated that through the abutter notification process one neighbor, who
    is present this evening, had concerns that this project could contribute to ground
    water contamination. Mr. Wiehe said there had been an issue of ground water
    contamination from this landfill into Flax Pond 20 or 30 years ago. In his
    opinion, however, it is unlikely that this project would cause any contamination to
    occur. What we have proscribed is all on top of the cap and all of the arrays are
    compatible with the cap and will not cause any undue pressure. There will be
    some ongoing settlement and we fully expect to have to make some adjustments
    as the years go to ensure that the panels are still facing the sun.

   Mr. McClean, a sanitary engineer working for ACE stated that DEP monitors all
    landfills and that this landfill has been closed for some time. The monitoring of
    this site will continue by the DEP and as part of the post closure use application is
    going to require a third party engineer showing that we don’t do anything to
    compromise the landfill itself.

   Mr. Spitz stated that the Public Works Department is the body in town most
    involved with safe protection of the landfill cap and that Link Hooper of Public

    Works is satisfied that the proper channels have been followed in regards to the

   Mr. de Bakker has a question about Drawing D-1 which shows the existing
    landfill and a drawing of the ballasts. Mr. Wiehe said that the ballasts will ensure
    that the panels don’t blow away. Mr. Wiehe said that in no way will they
    penetrate the sand and gravel layer or the geomembrane.

   The panels are laid in on top of the racking and these panels get linked together
    with an above-ground conduit and it is all combined to these areas where we have
    these invertors, so there will be about eight or nine invertors. The town currently
    has the responsibility to mow, however, ACE will mow around the panels and
    they have an incentive not to allow the grass to grow too high.

   There is a gate that the fire captain would like to see widened.

   Mr. McCaffery wanted to know whether there are problems with vandals. Mr.
    McClean indicated that occasionally kids like to through rocks. It is a hazard, but
    unless it becomes a problem there are a number of ways to deal with it, first,
    through passive security then to more active security. It was noted that this is
    extremely rare that there are any problems.

   There are some architectural renderings showing current conditions at the landfill
    and with the panels. These renderings will be made available to the absent
    Planning Board members.

   205 Queen Anne Road is not a highly visible site. Mr. Wiehe showed a site in
    Springfield, MA as point of reference. There is also a site in Pittsfield, MA built
    on the same type of ballasts to be used in this project.

   Jim Merriam, working with the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative, stated
    that this will convey that Harwich is a green community. The benefit is to the
    municipal budget and the town will receive offsets with the municipal budget as
    result of this project. In our five year and one year budgets we are showing that
    the town leases this land to CVEC, which becomes a revenue source and the town
    also has to purchase the power.
   For every 7 cents spent for every kilowatt hour, the town will get back 14 cents.
    It becomes a sizable amount of money over the 20 year period.

   Mr. de Bakker asked whether the town would benefit from efficiencies that may
    arise from new technologies with a 20 year contract in place.

   Maggie Downey a Cape Light Compact Administrator stated that built into the
    contract there is a certain amount of energy guaranteed annually. There are
    degradations that will occur which are also accounted for. This is a $25 million
    investment for ACE, so typically one wouldn’t see any upgrading within a 20 year

    period. There will, however, be maintenance of the solar panels and the invertors
    may be upgraded.

   Mr. McCaffery stated that the finances of the deal are not under the Planning
    Board’s purview.

   There is a cap for the town under the Green Communities Act. This project will
    account for about half of what Harwich will be able to have. So another project
    could not exceed the 10 megawatt cap.

   Are these American made solar panels? The panels haven’t yet been contracted
    for and Mr. McClean stated that right now the Chinese made panels are the best
    on the market. It will, of course, be American labor, steel and many of the raw
    materials that go into the panels are American.

   Mr. McCaffery asked if anyone from the Town Manager’s office discussed
    waiving the fee. Mr. Spitz noted that there was a lot of staff time involved in this

   Mr. McCaffery asked about the effects of snow and ice on the panels. Mr.
    McClean said the “sweet spot” is around 20 degrees and he noted that a 20 degree
    tilt is enough for the panels to shed the snow themselves. It is not worth the
    economics to have anyone remove the snow. He noted that January is the least
    performing month and June is the best.

   There will be an unmanned station with 24 hour a day remote monitoring. There
    is a website that can be publicly accessed and can be used for educational
    purposes. They can see how the system is working. If there is a problem they can
    send someone out.

   The intention is to begin construction once final permitting is approved, including
    electrical and building permits. The hope is that this will be by the spring 2012.
    They would prefer not to be doing any construction between July 4th and Labor

   At the peak of constructions there will be about 60 electricians and the parking
    will have to be off site. There will be a staging area, but they do want to reserve
    the right to go through the Treasure Chest. Most likely the larger trucks will be
    going through road they will be building during construction.

   ACE will be offering a PV training class for the fire fighters. It will give them
    familiarity with the site. The panels are not combustible, but occasionally there
    can be brush fires.

Public Comment

   John Gilbertson stated that in 1980 the Town bought about 200 acres behind his
    property behind Flax Pond. The Town put in septic lagoons and in 1992, 500,000
    gallons of septic waste was released which adversely affected Flax Pond. He
    wants to understand what has happened. He is concerned that this problem could
    affect the title and, hence, could affect the project. He would like to hear from an
    expert as to whether or not this problem was ever cured. He understands that
    there is a DEQ “letter of closure,” and he recommends that a good environmental
    expert be contracted to show that the problem has been resolved.

   Jim Miriam stated that as part of the landfill post-closure process the Town has
    retained Nate Weeks, an environmental engineer, and the town can ask him if this
    remains a concern.

   Mr. McCaffery stated that the hearing is going to be continued and we can see
    what information is available about this issue (brought to the Planning Board’s
    attention by Mr. Gilbertson.)

   Mr. de Bakker stated that it is not clear that there is any connection between what
    happened years ago and the proposed solar panel project.

   The drainage patterns will not be changed in any way by the placement of the
    solar panels. Mr. McClean stated that in 2000 the site was closed and the closure
    was approved by the DEP. DEP also continues to monitor drinking water.

   Mr. de Bakker asked about signs and whether any additional signs might be

   Mr. McCaffery also asked about fencing. Mr. Wiehe stated that about 95% of the
    property is fenced.

   Mr. Wiehe stated that they have no reason to put up signs beyond warning signs
    about the risk of electric shock.

   Elaine Gilbertson expressed concerns about the fact that she and her husband have
    property next to the proposed PV facility. Right now she overlooks the green site
    of the landfill. She asked if there will be additional trees to shield her property.
    She also asked if the facility will be lit at night.

   Mr. Wiehe said that they are far exceeding the town’s setback requirements.
    There are no trees allowed on the cap. The development will not require that
    anything be cleared on the land whatsoever, nor will there be any lights on the

      Mr. Spitz said that this can be examined a bit more closely regarding the north
       side of the property.

      Mr. McCaffery said it also depends on how much growth there is on Mrs.
       Gilbertson’s property.

      Mr. Wiehe stated that there is also concern that neighbors will build structures
       that could shade the panels, but he believes this array is set back far enough that it
       shouldn’t be highly visible to neighbors.

Mr. McParland moved to continue the hearing on PB 2011-31 to December 13th, 2011.
Mr. de Bakker seconded the motion. The Applicants asked if the hearing could be
continued for one week only. Due to the holiday December 13th, 2011 is the better date.
There being no further discussion the motion to continue passed unanimously.

Mr. McParland moved to adjourn the meeting. The motion was seconded by Mr. Stello.
The meeting adjourned at 8:25 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Elizabeth Hayes                                       Matthew McCaffery, Chairman


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