Fearing Hill Road solar plans draw criticism

Jun 29, 2021

A 20-acre solar array proposed for Fearing Hill Road drew extensive criticism from the public at the June 28 Planning Board meeting. 

The project, to be located at 91 and 101 Fearing Hill Rd., would be located on a 44 acre site.

Joe Shanahan, representing Wareham MA 3, LLC., spoke about the project. Shanahan works for Con Edison, a company that develops solar projects across the country.

Shanahan said that the array would cover 20 of the site’s 40 acres. Currently, the land is undeveloped woodlands. He said that the project would be set back 100 feet from Fearing Hill Road and would be surrounded by a woodland buffer to minimize the impact on neighboring properties. 

The solar array would be surrounded by a vegetated access road and a security fence. A gravel access road would lead up to the solar field from the street. 

There is an elevated ridge through the center of the site that led to concerns from the board that the solar panels would be visible from the street or neighbors’ properties. Board member Mike King suggested the company conduct a line-of-sight review to ensure the panels wouldn’t be visible. 

About seven speakers opposed the project. The Planning Board meeting was held in person with remote access via Zoom, but those on the zoom call said they could barely understand what was being said in the meeting. (Note: This reporter found the audio quality on WCTV’s stream of the meeting to be better than the audio on Zoom.)

Lisa Morales, who participated via zoom, expressed frustration that abutters were originally notified that the meeting was to be held virtually, and were not re-notified of the change to a hybrid meeting, especially because it was hard to understand what was being said remotely.

Multiple people discussed the impact of the land clearing on the local animal and plant populations. 

“Solar is wonderful if you put it in the right place. Destroying the forest in the name of green energy is not green energy, other than the almighty dollar,” said Kathy Pappalardo, a resident of the neighborhood and the president of Wareham Land Trust.

Pappalardo and Annie Hayes said they have seen endangered box turtles in the area.

Several people who live nearby said they were very worried about the impact that clearing land would have on stormwater runoff, especially because the ridgeline is glacial till — sediment deposited by a glacier — which is not particularly absorbent. After the trees are removed, neighbors said they are concerned that they will experience even more flooding at their properties. One said her basement floods with even a half-inch of rain. She noted that some neighbors use well water, which could be contaminated via runoff.

Shanahan said the company plans to move some earth around the site to flatten it and create two earthen berms intended to mitigate stormwater runoff — measures that didn’t seem to comfort the neighbors. The company does not plan to remove any earth from the property. 

Several people pointed out that their neighborhood may become surrounded by solar if the project is approved, as there are already solar panels on nearby Squirrel Island Road.

The Planning Board chose to continue the hearing to July 26. The proposal is also set to be discussed at the July 7 Conservation Commission meeting.