To the editor:
In response to the recent town approval of a community solar farm special permit at 623 Weathersfield St., to use an area as a solar farm, the controversial 2-megawatt Maven Revocable Trust solar farm project is finally off the ground! However, it’s in the hands of a California hedge fund company and not one of our own loyal, dedicated, community sympathetic, electric rate concerned citizens who tried but were thwarted by the previous eight Planning Board disapprovals. That’s how we take care of our own in this town. Or is it?
The Planning Board approval delays were numerous. Were they by design? Or did it get direction from the selectmen’s office? The water commissioners promoted solar for the new treatment plant but the selectmen’s office put an end to that. The water department pays six electric bills each month and has the dubious honor of one of the highest rates in Massachusetts. Why?
The Planning Board recently presented their position of farm uses and enforcement at a recent meeting. But the solar farm is an agricultural use! The Farm Act applies. According to the Rowley Planning Board, the Farm Act and the Dover Amendment tie the town’s hands. Farms can do anything they want and the town can’t do anything about it. If you don’t believe it, just ask the two enforcement arms of the town government. Who’s that? The conservation agent and the building inspector, but not this board.
The Farm Act seems to be the catchall for circumventing the Rowley “citizen approved” bylaws. However, the Planning Board did not consider that the Farm Act or the Dover Amendment apply to all our farms, especially the Maven solar farm. Setback requirements, signage, building permits for structures still apply. The other enforcement branch here in town got it wrong too. They approved alterations and uses (filling in wetland resources for a commercial building placement) and the setback requirement for that store is 50 feet, not 12 feet.
But, for Maven Revocable Trust, the answer to getting what they want to use their property for (agricultural use) required them a re-application for a special permit resulting in setback losses causing damages. So bad, they filed bankruptcy! The setback loss reduced their agricultural use that they were entitled to in the Dover Amendment / Farm Act.
If you’re one of “them” you don’t need special permits and Rowley bylaws do not apply. Certain people can do whatever they want especially when you state you’re a farm. Some can create land out of wetland and put a store on it in a residential zone.
Maven Trust is in Superior Court trying to make things right. The town did them wrong like the other numerous (lost count at 20) cases brought against Rowley in the last 20 years. Applicants are held “hostage” to get what they are entitled to and follow the laws. Some in town don’t have to.