Vote on controversial solar farm delayed

Mar 9, 2021

The Planning Board postponed a vote on the Borrego solar field proposed for A.D. Makepeace land on Tihonet Road following conversations about the company’s right to remove sand and gravel from the site.

As discussed at the March 8 Planning Board meeting, the proposal calls for roughly two million cubic yards of sand and gravel to be removed from the land to prepare it for the installation of solar panels. While the applicant, represented by Stacy Minihane of Beales and Thomas, argued that removal was necessary, conservation advocates, including Meg Sheehan of the Community Land and Water Coalition, said that the solar field was a mere cover story for the strip mining of the land.

That sand and gravel, Sheehan said, is worth about $18 million dollars. The application stated that the sand and gravel would be used by A.D. Makepeace on its cranberry bogs for agricultural uses.

Regardless of the purpose of the earth removal, if earth is removed from the town of Wareham, companies are supposed to clear that removal with the Board of Selectmen and pay the town 25 cents per cubic yard removed.

A.D. Makepeace and Borrego have not obtained earth removal permits from the Selectmen.

Kathy Pappalardo of Wareham Land Trust asked where the earth removed would be taken, but did not receive an answer from the applicant. 

“This question has come up before, but it’s always been swept under the carpet,” said Planning Board member Mike Baptiste, who pushed for more clarity from the applicant.

The town is currently involved in litigation related to illegal earth removal. It is unclear whether A.D. Makepeace is one of the parties involved in that litigation.

There is another level of confusion, as some parties have proposed that the land should be purchased to be preserved through Chapter 61A right of first refusal. Chapter 61A is an agricultural classification that allows land to be taxed at a lower rate. If a property owner wants to sell land classified this way, the town is given the right of first refusal to buy the property.

Discussions will continue at the board’s March 22 meeting.