AMESBURY — Long considered the future home of a new soccer field, the newly capped Titcomb Pit landfill is now being eyed as the possible site for a solar farm.
Mayor Thatcher Kezer and city councilors this week confirmed there is interest in using the former landfill at the intersection of Route 150 and South Hunt Road for solar power, which could bring a considerable amount of revenue into Amesbury. But officials cautioned the discussions are preliminary and no decisions have been made.
Kezer said he still intends to proceed with the construction of a soccer field on the top of the hill where the land is flat. The solar panels could then be placed on the slope surrounding the field.
“We want to do both,” Kezer said. “The soccer field would be up on the top on the flat spot, and there’s room all around on the slope for the solar panels.”
District 2 Councilor Christian Scorzoni, who is a staunch advocate for solar development in Amesbury, said the council’s main concern is finding the best use for the site. He highlighted the fact that Amesbury recently received the results of a fatal flaw analysis from Meridian Associates and the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission identifying Titcomb Pit as a prime place for solar development.
“What I’ve envisioned is a situation where the city was able to develop a solar project on an area like Titcomb, and then use the proceeds to fund a soccer field expansion elsewhere,” Scorzoni said. “That’s a concept that several of the councilors have kicked around, and we’ve tried to determine what the best use of Titcomb is.”
The Amesbury Soccer Association has indicated in the past that it will maintain the property if a soccer field is built there. In the fall, Kezer said the association had set aside money to purchase nets, flags and other essentials to finish the project off when the time comes. A voicemail left for the soccer association seeking comment about the solar panel discussions wasn’t returned by press time.
There are limitations on what the city can do with the converted landfill. Regulations prohibit anything from being built on top of the landfill, and a soccer field had been seen as the most likely option for the site.
In recent months, however, the city has made a push toward being recognized as a Green Community by the state. A solar overlay district was established in town and last month the City Council voted to adopt the Stretch Code, which is an alternate building code that emphasizes greater energy efficiency.
By building solar panels, the city could take advantage of state programs that direct revenue toward cities that invest in solar energy, a theme at-large City Council candidate Eric Bezanson plans to campaign on. Bezanson has said Amesbury is the No. 1 community in the state in terms of solar potential and that the city could bring in as much as $900,000 that way.
In December 2011, the city bought the Titcomb Pit landfill from the Jack Ryan Trust using Waste Management funds. The plan was for the city to own the land, Waste Management to operate it and eventually for soccer fields to be built on it. A new parking lot at the old Route 150 truck stop adjacent to the landfill was proposed as well.
Just prior to the purchase, Waste Management had the landfill recapped by order of the Department of Environmental Protection and within a year, grass began to cover the area, suggesting that the land would soon be ripe for development.
One obstacle toward converting the landfill into a soccer field is the fact that the area is on a slope. The top of the landfill is at a 3 percent grade, which is the flattest that Waste Management was able to make it while complying with DEP runoff regulations.
Per the agreement, Waste Management paid the city $200,000, some of which was used to purchase the land, with the remainder used to further flatten the top for the prospective soccer field. Kezer said that process would begin once Waste Management gets the final signoff from the DEP, which he said should happen soon.
“It’s very minor stuff that’s left,” Kezer said. “It’s probably a few more patches, but they’re close ... and then they need sign-off from the DEP.”
Kezer agreed with Scorzoni’s sentiment about finding the best use of the Titcomb Pit property, but said he believes the area offers potential for two attractive uses.
“We want to maximize the use of that space,” Kezer said.