During the deliberations on Tuesday Jonathan Klavens, counsel for the applicant, warned selectmen that he believed the reasons cited for denying the application would leave the town open to an appeal.
Following the meeting Klavens touted the benefits of the proposed solar facility as a new source of tax revenue without a demand on local services, a support for electric grid stability in the area, and a way to help the community and the country shift to a green energy future.
He noted that under state law, while selectmen can impose reasonable conditions on an application, only in cases where it is necessary in order to protect public health, safety and welfare can the board reject an application outright.
“We are deeply troubled by the board’s flagrant violation of the state law right to install solar energy equipment on the property,” Klavens wrote in a statement issued yesterday afternoon. “By deciding that the town’s ‘welfare’ includes maintenance of ‘common pasture’ landscape on private property and requires prohibition of the proposed solar facility, the board has made a mockery of that state law right and has set a very dangerous precedent that threatens to frustrate solar energy development across the state.”
But for Selectman David Mountain, protecting the community’s best interest was tied to preserving the historic Common Pasture, a swath of land from Plum Island to Haverhill that has been used continuously for farming, harvesting timber and pasturing livestock since Colonial times. Pikul Farm is located within that area.
“What value do we put on the Common Pasture?” he said. Mountain called it “the right project in the wrong place,” and felt the potential negative impact to the historic nature of the land far outweighed any as-yet-undetermined tax revenues the town might receive from the project.