Planning Board one step closer to approving Fearing Hill solar project’s initial hydrogeologist analysis

Sep 27, 2021

Senior hydrogeologist Neal Price and the team at Horsley Witten Group have defined “phase one” in a possible series of studies and tests deemed necessary to determine the proposed Fearing Hill solar project’s potential impact on stormwater runoff in the area. 

The proposed 20-acre solar array, to be located on a 44-acre site at 91 and 101 Fearing Hill Rd., has drawn intense criticism from the public over the past few months. The hydrogeology studies are needed to answer a number of the Planning Board’s remaining questions about the Fearing Hill solar project. Board members said the project could not be approved without a hydrogeologist’s analysis.

“Abutters to this property have reported to this Planning Board that they are running their sump pumps 12 months a year. In the spring, some people are running multiple sump pumps,” Board Chair Richard Swenson said, explaining the need for a hydrogeologist study at an Aug. 16 meeting. “It’s obviously very wet.”

In addition, he said the board has been told the site is a “glacial till” area, meaning the sediment was deposited by a glacier and is not particularly absorbent.

“It’s also been reported to this board that this site has previously been perced for residential development and failed those tests,” Swenson said at the time. A perc test is often used to determine where a septic system can be built, and is simply a test of how well the ground being assessed drains or percolates water.

During a Sept. 27 meeting, the Planning Board explored what Price and the Horsley Witten Group determined should be the first stages of the hydrogeology analysis. 

After several weeks of absence, and at least one week where a proxy was sent, the applicant, Joseph Shanahan, was present to field questions from the Planning Board — and to ask questions of Price. 

During the meeting, Shanahan expressed some concerns about the proposed price tag — roughly $28,000 — for the preliminary hydrogeology studies. He said he was worried that the $28,000 worth of work the Horsley Witten Group proposed wouldn’t actually yield enough information to put members of the Planning Board — or the public — at ease about the project. 

It took some back-and-forth between Price, Shanahan and members of the board, but it seemed clear that phase one of the proposed hydrogeology analysis would move forward after the Horsley Witten Group made a few revisions to its plans. 

Those revisions should be presented, reviewed and potentially approved at the Planning Board’s next meeting.