Residents file suit to block Planning Board’s approval of Makepeace, Borrego solar farm

Apr 26, 2021

Two Wareham residents have filed a lawsuit against the Wareham Planning Board, the A.D. Makepeace Company and Borrego Solar that alleges the board improperly approved a site plan proposed by the two companies for a solar field. 

The suit, filed by Attorney Meg Sheehan in Land Court, argues that the board’s approval of the solar project at 140 Tihonet Road was “arbitrary and capricious,” beyond the Board’s authority, and not in accordance with the law.

The site is one of three on Tihonet and Charge Pond Road on which Makepeace and Borrego hope to build solar fields. In sum, the properties total about 157 acres. 

The projects have been fiercely contested by environmental activists, including Sheehan, in her role with the Community Land and Water Coalition.

Plaintiffs Matthew Buckingham and Richard Rogers both own homes they purchased from A.D. Makepeace in the Crane Landing neighborhood, which is governed by a homeowners’ association. Both frequently enjoy accessing the natural world near their homes.

“The construction and operation of the Project will harm Plaintiff’s rights to the natural beauty and scenic use of their homes and common lands guaranteed by the Makepeace Covenant [which delineates the rights of the homeowners’ association],” Sheehan argues. Construction equipment, noise, dust, logging, damage to water quality in Tihonet Pond, disruption to wildlife and reduction in property values are among the negative consequences Sheehan projects the plaintiffs would suffer if the project goes forward.

Sheehan argues that the Planning Board violated the town’s zoning bylaws by failing to consider several provisions required for the issuance of a special permit. Bylaws require the board to confirm that the development would not “adversely affect the neighborhood” or be a “nuisance or hazard to vehicles or pedestrians,” among other conditions.

Sheehan wrote that the development would also violate the covenant signed by A.D. Makepeace and the homeowners’ association, of which the plaintiffs are members. That covenant, Sheehan wrote, includes the right to the “natural beauty and scenic use” of homes and common lands, and marketing materials prominently featured wooded views. Sheehan argues the solar fields would “destroy” the plaintiffs’ ability to enjoy the natural beauty near their homes, and would violate the covenant.

Thirdly, Sheehan argues, the solar fields would violate the plaintiffs’ right — as delineated by the Massachusetts Constitution — to a clean environment.

The suit asks that the court force the Planning Board go through a new special permit process for Makepeace and Borrego, enforce the Makepeace covenant with the homeowners’ association, and prohibit the granting of building permits for any of the three proposed Makepeace and Borrego solar fields until the case is settled.

The complete text of the lawsuit is attached to this story.