Selectmen debate how fast to move on solar proposal
By Keith Regan, Contributing Writer
Westborough – With Town Meeting articles regarding the lease of town-owned land on Smith Valve Parkway for a solar array ready to go, the Board of Selectmen debated at its Feb. 11 meeting whether the proposal was moving too fast for residents to remain informed.
Selectmen Chair Ian Johnson said he has received numerous inquiries about the proposal, leading him to worry that town leadership may be heading into Town Meeting with too many unanswered questions.
“When that happens we tend to get blown out of the water,” he said. “I think there's too many open questions at this point. I think personally it's a great idea, but we are going to get a ton of questions at Town Meeting and someone will stand up and say this is premature.”
Two articles currently on the warrant would have to pass for the town to move forward with leasing the land. One would authorize selectmen to negotiate and enter into a lease on the former EPA Superfund cleanup site. The other will modify zoning on the property to match the surrounding area and enable the array to be fit onto a six-acre parcel on the property.
Town Manager Jim Malloy said the town will issue a request for qualifications for firms interested in installing and operating solar arrays at the Smith Valve Parkway site as well as other potential sites in town, including the Department of Public Works headquarters building, the Westborough High School parking lot, and the Sarah W. Gibbons Middle School.
Most of the board feel the proposal is ready for a Town Meeting vote.
“If we don’t have answers right now, it's up to us to get them before we take this to voters,” said Selectman Leigh Emery.
“Let's get the reaction,” added Selectman George Barrette.
Malloy acknowledged the town will not have some answers before the meeting, including how much the town could save in reduced energy costs.
As envisioned, the array would keep intact both an existing hiking trail and proposed continuation of that trail on the site. Another part of the property, which includes part of Hocomonco Pond, which was previously set aside for firefighter training, will also not be affected.
The Town Meeting will convene at the Westborough High School auditorium Saturday, March 15, at 1 p.m. The full warrant may be viewed on the town's website, http://www.town.westborough.ma.us/Public_Documents/index.
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